Monday, November 6, 2023

Michael Kennedy and Tyler MacIntyre Discuss Their Charming Christmas Slasher ‘It’s a Wonderful Knife’ [Interview]

Over the past few years, horror fans have enjoyed a rejuvenation of the slasher subgenre. Even more exciting is the fact that writers and directors are finding new and creative ways to make slasher movies fun. A great example of this is the body swap horror comedy Freaky (2020), written by Michael Kennedy and Christopher Landon and directed by Landon. Now Kennedy has written the time-travel Christmas slasher It’s a Wonderful Knife, directed by Tyler MacIntyre, who also directed the dark horror comedy Tragedy Girls (2017).

It’s a Wonderful Knife tells the story of teenager Winnie Carruthers, played by Jane Widdop (Yellowjackets), who saves her hometown of Angel Falls from an unhinged killer on Christmas Eve. A year later, struggling to cope with the events of the previous Christmas, Winnie wishes she had never been born and is mysteriously transported to a parallel universe where things are even worse than she could have ever imagined. It’s a Wonderful Knife boasts a great cast that includes Katherine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps), Joel McHale (Community), and Justin Long (Barbarian) as villainous Mayor Henry Waters, and is a joyously magical, bloody slasher that is also surprisingly heartwarming.

During a recent press day, Bloody Disgusting had the pleasure of talking with writer Michael Kennedy and director Tyler MacIntyre about the inspiration for It’s a Wonderful Knife, collaborating on the unique holiday look of the killer, how the film fits into the slasher resurgence, and a lot more.

It’s a Wonderful Knife will be released in theaters on November 10 from RLJE Films and Shudder.

Bloody Disgusting: Michael, what inspired you to write a time-travel Christmas slasher?

Michael Kennedy: I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas slasher and I knew in 2021 we were going through everything everyone else was going through, and that would be the time I wrote some kind of Christmas horror movie. I couldn’t help but think about my time working on Freaky and how much I loved it and I found joy in making that movie and it did well with people and critics. It came out at a time when people needed it, and I thought I wanted to do something like that with Christmas and immediately thought of It’s a Wonderful Life. I love that movie. It’s a classic in our household and it was my dad’s favorite movie, so I thought it was a cool way to play in that world and something my family was so familiar with and a nice way to honor my dad who passed away in 2018. And in a weird way, kind of make a movie with him in some kind of way.

BD: Tyler, what appealed to you most about the script for It’s a Wonderful Knife?

Tyler MacIntyre: I write a lot of my own material, so when I’m looking for something to direct, I want it to be something that I wouldn’t normally write myself, and that’s what I liked about this.

The concept was pretty bulletproof and I’m a big fan of Freaky. What I liked about it was it was light in a way that in some ways is like the type of things that I tend to make, but at the same time has a serious heart to it. I tend to go for a much richer type of irony, where this means it; it is legitimately supposed to be uplifting in a way that’s not like the things that I tend to write. So, I wanted to see if we could do that. If we could make a slasher movie with a heart of gold and that was really kind of the North Star going into this; figuring out how you do this because slashers are inherently a bit grim, and I wanted to see if we could end up in a positive place with an affirming message. I think that was the challenge and ultimately what was really fun about it.

BD: The killer has such a unique look; they almost look like a Christmas tree ornament. How did the two of you collaborate on the look of the killer?

TM: In the script, there were some details, like the knife was kind of ornate and the killer was all white. So, we kind of took those parameters and started to work with our costume designer Matea Pasaric and our production designer Tiana P. Gordon and tried to nail down the options. We got a lot of inspiration from older vintage ornaments like angel tree toppers with porcelain faces. A lot of them have very blank expressions. So, we thought, “What if it is just like looking at a frosted light bulb?” That creates visual opportunities like reflecting Christmas lights and there is some fun in that, but then also most slashers are in black, and they hide in the shadows. Whereas we would have to hide them in snow and against white surfaces, but then we could also cover them in blood. So, we thought about the challenges and opportunities it would create. I think we ended up in a good place. We found a really good stunt performer who kind of really split the differences of the body types of the people in the costumes so we could figure out their own way of moving, and still kind of look like an angel. People seem to be responding really well to it.

BD: This movie has such a great cast! Jane Widdop is fantastic as the lead and we get to see Justin Long play an asshole, which is always fun.

MK: Justin has that boyish look that totally throws people off when he’s a total dick [laughs].

TM: He has that nice guy kind of assumption to him. In something like Barbarian where he seems nice at first, but then he gets much darker. We thought it would be fun if he went big and smarmy; kind of play him against type from the beginning. He really responded well to that and had some big choices in mind. Thankfully, it became filtering all the good ideas he had and putting as many of them in there as possible.

BD: It’s a Wonderful Knife has some really creative, brutal kills. How did the two of you work together to create the death scenes?

TM: Michael can probably tell you a little bit more, but with good kills you have to balance logistical things. Sometimes you change locations, and you have to remake something that was made specifically for that kill. So, you’re constantly thinking of new ways to kill people [laughs]. There were already some really good ideas in there, like the candy cane kill. That was one that was in there early and stayed there because it just worked and it worked anywhere you put it, and it was just a great idea. Some of them you have to kind of make bigger sequences because you’re sort of pivoting on the fly. Michael and I are both big horror movie fans, so we were always able to come up with more of those, but you probably throw out two times what actually makes it to the screen.

MK: Yeah, they’re constantly in fluid motion with changes and cost and time and all kinds of different stuff. The Christmas aspect of it, I definitely wanted to play with those a couple of times. Things like the snowman and the candy cane, those were there pretty early. Tyler came up with the light sequence and to “Carol of the Bells.” It’s really cool how fluid kills can be, but also people don’t realize how sometimes those are the hardest things to craft because sometimes you have to go through five or six options before you land on the one for that character. It’s pretty nuts how much time you spend thinking about kills [laughs].

TM: Yeah, it’s a weird headspace to be in and you’re always thinking about how to kill people.

BD: It’s kind of like choreography to get it to look the way you want it to look, isn’t it?

TM: Yeah, for sure. The theater sequence was a big one that we talked about with the lights going on and off. There’s a lot of different examples of that sort of thing in horror movies. Like how we use the sound design and make sure it has all those different beats to it, but then it also needs to be a little funny. We had assembled a good team, and they were able to sort of pivot with us. For example, our cinematographer Nicholas Piatnik did a lot of work to kind of throw out a lot of visual ideas, so it was good that people were nimble like that, and it allowed us to do a lot.

BD: We’ve had a resurgence of the slasher subgenre over the past few years with movies like Freaky, Scream, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and others. Where do you think It’s a Wonderful Knife fits in this resurgence and where do you think the subgenre is headed in the future?

MK: There was an article this week about Happy Death Day, Freaky, and Totally Killer, and It’s a Wonderful Knife was referenced, too. They called it the post, post-modern slasher in how it has kind of taken what Scream did and put a twist on it with not so much referencing movies but taking movies and putting a meta twist on them just in general. We do reference It’s a Wonderful Life a couple of times but it’s not throughout the movie. She talks about Back to the Future a little bit and Totally Killer; it’s like a shorthand. I personally think in the next couple of years we’re going to continue to see more fun slasher movies. I think with all the strife going on right now, people want escapist horror more than they want darker horror. There is always going to be room for a movie as great as Talk to Me, but I think if people are presented with one or the other right now, they’re tending to kind of choose more of the fun angle.

TM: For sure. I’ve always loved my horror with a little comedy in it. I think that after Scream came out and there was sort of this long fall through all the nineties horror and then we ended up at Saw, and it was like it was illegal to make jokes. That went on for about ten years and then we had more supernatural horror. By the time I was fortunate enough to get Tragedy Girls made, it was a little bit before Happy Death Day, but since then it’s been like it’s okay to make a slasher movie and also like slashers. That kind of set the table for things like Halloween 2018 and for Scream to come back. So, slashers are healthy right now and it’s just a question of trying to find new ways to bring something new for the audience.

As long as the audience is showing up for it, we can keep making them.

The post Michael Kennedy and Tyler MacIntyre Discuss Their Charming Christmas Slasher ‘It’s a Wonderful Knife’ [Interview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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