BY BECCA JOHNSON NOVEMBER 20, 2023
Back in 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's double feature 'Grindhouse' dropped, bringing with it some fictitious movie trailers – Eli Roth's Thanksgiving was one of them. 16 years later it is no longer fictitious, as it has finally been turned into a full-length feature. Thanksgiving is Roth's attempt at an 80's inspired slasher, masked killer and all, and it's an absolute riot. With inventive kills, a memorable villain and slices of what Roth does best, it easily has the potential to become a November staple for horror lovers.
After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts - the birthplace of the infamous holiday.
Thanksgiving is Roth's most accessible film to date, and easily his best. It steers away from his usual style of exploitation, and even goes down a different path to the parody trailer it is based on. Leaving behind that gritty, grainy early 2000's atmosphere that he usually cleaves, what Roth presents this time is a slick, studio-feeling whodunnit slasher that's easily digestible and a lot of fun. However, don't let that fool you entirely – it still manages to pack in as much gore as it can. What works best in Thanksgiving is the kills; not only are they grimace-worthy and gory, but they're actually pretty inventive too, doing a lot of things we don't often see. There's enough of them to entertain us throughout the run-time, and it cleverly keeps up with the times by adding in little elements with technology that stop us thinking 'can't they just use their phone and call someone?'. The design of villain John Carver is fantastic, and definitely has the potential to become iconic if this franchise expands. The horror elements work a treat.
Thanksgiving is a refreshing watch due to how thoroughly it understands the balance of comedy and horror. It often has an undeniably dark tone, as the masked killer torments a young girl and her friends and kills it's victims in the most gruesome of ways. It has an interesting focus on consumerism that despite it not quite being explored as thoroughly as it could have, it definitely makes the viewer think about how manic some of us become on Black Friday, going for those deals despite not really needing the product. On the flipside of this, Thanksgiving is utterly hilarious, and includes many laugh-out-loud gags. From our masked killer feeding a victims cat to shoppers fighting other shoppers with waffle irons, the comedic tone is super fun and works almost as well as the horror.
Thanksgiving is not without it's flaws; an obvious one is how generic it feels. There's something fun about watching a familiar-feeling whodunnit horror, but it's also undeniably obvious where it's drawn it's inspiration from. The story lacks edge, and the mystery element is the weakest moment in the writing. The reveal is quite lacklustre when it arrives, the writers unfortunately choosing the too obvious option to be the killer. The dialogue is also disappointing, often feeling corny and very bog-standard. This is partly the fault of the delivery, too; the performances are good from Patrick Dempsey (Scream 3) and Rick Hoffman (Hostel), but aren't quite up to scratch from the younger cast. It's sometimes hard to tell whether the characters are unlikeable, the dialogue is rubbish, the performances are bad or if it's a mixture of all three.
Thanksgiving suffers from a sub-par script and a lacklustre reveal; it's a shame to see that Roth didn't actually write this. The characters are bland and often annoying, and the scenes that don't include any horror are sometimes a little boring. It has moments of greatness, particularly the opening RightMart sequence and it's kill scenes, and it's nice to see Roth create something more accessible and easier to stomach. As a horror community, we do lack Thanksgiving-themed flicks, and this one is a fantastic option that could become a staple.