Tag Archives: Joel McHale

You’re Beginning to Look a Lot Like Victims

It’s a Wonderful Knife

by Hope Madden

For some people, it’s not even Thanksgiving, let’s not get into Christmas movies quite yet, OK? Meanwhile, countless people have been binging Hallmark Christmas tales since July. And the rest of us are still stinging that Halloween is over.

By that math, 2/3 of all viewers will be pleased with It’s a Wonderful Knife, the Christmas story with all the feel-good cheer of the classics and all the bloody knifework of a solid slasher.

The title gives away the film’s core conceit, but honestly, it bore more of a resemblance to Dolly Parton’s 2020 holiday debacle – I mean, charmer – Christmas on the Square. One small town real estate tycoon (Justin Long) intends to turn a historic strip into a shopping and dining oasis, even if it means bullying kindly old Mr. Evans (William B. Davis) into selling his family home.

But wait! No time to think about that when a white clad, knife wielding maniac is on a tear! And all this in the first ten minutes of the movie. Fast forward one year and everyone’s pretty much over those murders, except Winnie (Jane Widdop). No one cares, no one notices, it wouldn’t even matter if she’d never been born (…never been born…never been born…).

Director Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls) and writer Michael Kennedy (Freaky) have some fun piling on the holiday film cliches. And there are plenty of reasons to enjoy their movie.

First of all, Justin Long. There are few people more reliably fun to see in a horror flick, and in this one he rocks a spray tan and fake teeth. So many bonus points.

Also fun, Joel McHale (Becky), who is somehow now the go-to for horror movie supportive dad with daughter issues. Add the always welcome Katharine Isabelle, and though she’s tragically underutilized, it’s great to see Cassandra Naud (who was phenomenal in Influencer).

The story itself, with its plot twists and turns, is not as clever as it pretends to be. It is wryly funny, though, and often quite sweet. It’s not as raucous as Kennedy’s Freaky nor as badass as MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls, but it is a bloody slice of Christmas fun.

Killer Tween


by Hope Madden

Finally, someone truly understands what it’s like to be an incredibly angry adolescent girl.

At the very least, Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s film Becky understands enough to be afraid of her.

The titular 13-year-old, played with convincing charisma by Lulu Wilson, is a handful for her widowed father (Joel McHale). Still, dad has decided this is the weekend to take Becky for a getaway with his girlfriend (Amanda Brugel), and her 5-year-old (Isaiah Rockcliffe). They head to the old vacation cabin for a big talk.

He soon finds that his 13-year-old may not be the scariest thing on earth.

Or, you know what? Maybe she is.

Kevin James plays against type as a swastika-tatted up inmate, leader of a band of escapees. James may be hoping to catch the same mid-career fire Vince Vaughn has been fanning, mainly portraying the heavy in various indie thrillers. Early scenes play well, James cutting a solemnly menacing figure as he quietly organizes and orchestrates. But as the film wears on it becomes clear the actor can’t manage the sinister energy needed to really make an impression.

I’ll take this over Paul Blart, though.

Robert Maillet’s a lot of fun, though. At 6’10”, the one-time wrestler dwarfs even the gangly McHale. He’s no master thespian, but his arc creates a spectacular punctuation for Becky’s own transformation and his sheer immensity brings a little needed anxiety to the film.

The writing team, which includes Lane and Ruckus Skye of the brilliant and as-of-yet undistributed Devil to Pay (originally titled Reckoning), cheats a little with this script. Backstories, motivations and mysteries—particularly as they articulate the villainous characters—feel less undefined than lazily obscured. Between that and James’s inability to truly sell the viciousness in his character, the family’s jeopardy lacks the intensity it needs for this film to truly impress.

Wilson does not. In her hands, Becky is a fascinating character, and it is with this character that the writing team and directors score the most points. The film is bloody, angry and, even for its fairly formulaic premise, unpredictable.