“Thanksgiving” has an interesting history. What most thought was a joke featured in a grungy Grindhouse style trailer became a widely released slasher film. On the night of Black Friday, a promotional giveaway turns violent when multiple people are killed in a riot. One year later, a killer dressed as the pilgrim John Carver comes to Plymouth with a bloodthirsty revenge in mind. His killings all resemble Thanksgiving traditions, leading to those connected with the riot one year before. Can the group being targeted figure out who the killer is before they all become part of the feast?
I remember seeing the trailer for Thanksgiving at a theater earlier this year. What I thought could be a ridiculous premise turned out to be one of the most gleefully twisted slashers in years! The film is very self-aware with the concept of Thanksgiving themed kills. But that works in its favor because a killer with a theme makes the story more enjoyable. The “Scream” franchise clearly had an influence on the story structure and the whodunit aspect. But “Thanksgiving” does enough different to stand on its own and provide audiences with surprising thrills. Director Eli Roth adds his signature touch of gruesome kills combined with silly dialogue. It perfectly blends the best parts of both “Scream” and Eli Roth. I would even say this is Roth’s most consistent film and debatably his best.
I’d say “Thanksgiving” is for those who are more prominent fans of the genre. This isn’t an entry level slasher like some of the mainline franchises. Where that is a plus is in the execution. The film doesn’t neuter the material or gore levels to appeal to larger audiences. It reaches out with both hands and invites the right audience to hop on the roller coaster of carnage that is promised. For that, it delivers! The kills are some of the most creative in a slasher that I’ve seen in quite some time. John Carver utilizes different weapons associated with Thanksgiving feasts to terrorize his victims.
As much as I enjoyed “Thanksgiving”, there are a few spots that hold is back from crowning it a new classic. But it comes close! The main issue the film faces surrounds the characters. The main group of kids aren’t very memorable and provide mediocre performances. Some are worse than others. But I don’t think they’re helped with the dialogue they’re given. I know the film isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, but yikes…some of the dialogue was rough. The only performance worth highlighting is Patrick Dempsey, who hams it up nicely and delivers the performance we all wanted. Once the big finale comes into play, even I winced at some of the brutality. Eli Roth clearly had more influence on this scene as it fits his traditional grungy style. It reminded me of “Hostel” and “The Green Inferno”. I believe the film succeeds better where it acts as the inspired holiday slasher it promised.
“Thanksgiving” is one of my favorite horror movies of the year. It is tons of fun, providing enough creative kills to satisfy fans of the genre. It also takes inspiration from slashers of the past while creating a nice story of its own. This could be a yearly rewatch for me! I’ll give audiences the green light to check out “Thanksgiving” this holiday season. But there might be leftovers after all. Stay tuned!