Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving cooks up a solid slasher

Thanksgiving Parade from TriStar Pictures and Spyglass Media Group, LLC THANKSGIVING
Thanksgiving Parade from TriStar Pictures and Spyglass Media Group, LLC THANKSGIVING /

Ever since Eli Roth’s fake Thanksgiving-themed trailer debuted as part of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse in 2007, rumors swirled that the director planned to turn the trailer into a feature. Well, this year, that finally happened. Thanksgiving is a bloody bit of holiday fun, with an axe-wielding pilgrim and plenty of vicious kills. It’s a crowd-pleasing, wild watch, a solid cure for the post-Halloween blues.

Like Scream, Roth’s film has quite a memorable opening. On Thanksgiving night in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a local big box store, Right Smart, opens early for Black Friday. A massive crowd gathers outside, and the minute the doors open, customers trample each other. People die, but for what exactly? A free waffle maker? It’s a gruesome opening that sets the stage for what’s to come. One year later, a killer dressed as a pilgrim, more specifically as John Carver, seeks revenge. He picks off those he holds responsible one by one and has an elaborate dinner table set up to punish the last few on his hit list. The dinner table also makes for one heck of a set design.

Like any good slasher film, Thanksgiving features a pretty good final girl in Jessica (Nell Verlaque), whose family owns Right Smart. Despite the mayhem that occurred a year prior, Jessica remains a fairly popular girl at school. Most of her friends are other popular girls, and their boyfriends are football jocks. The blood-thirsty pilgrim targets them all.

Addison Rae stars in TriStar Pictures and Spyglass Media Group, LLC THANKSGIVING /

Thanksgiving stands out not only because it’s one of the very few Turkey Day horror movies, but it uses the concept of social media and livestreaming effectively. In the opening, one of Jessicia’s friends livestreams the chaos, unmoved by severe injuries and even death. Later on, the killer livestreams a few of the murders, as well as a climatic dinner table scene. If you consider Hostel, Roth has never really shied away from heavy-handed political and social commentary, and the streaming aspect adds a layer to what’s otherwise a campy and gory slasher. Influencers will do whatever they can for likes and clicks, including uploading horrific videos.

A mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts in TriStar Pictures and Spyglass Media Group, LLC THANKSGIVING /

That said, Thanksgiving is really a film where you can shut your mind off for 90 minutes and simply enjoy the carnage. The whodunnit aspect, which also borrows from Scream, adds to the fun. This slasher has plenty of stylish kills, which isn’t surprising considering who’s in the director’s chair here. The film never hits the level of Hostel or Green Inferno, but it’s not without a few brutal moments, either. Rest assured, slasher fans. This one has plenty of gnarly kills.

Another positive is the set designs, including the already mentioned dinner table sequences, a knockout parade scene, and a general small-town feel. Thanksgiving certainly captures the look of late autumn in New England. Oh, and the killer looks cool. The Carver mask is downright creepy.

Thanksgiving has definite rewatch value every late November, just before it’s time to break out Black Christmas or Gremlins. This film chops up a delectable feast of blood, guts, and gore.

Currently, Thanksgiving is playing in theaters.

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