Okay, I think we have a winner folks. Thanksgiving is the ultimate holiday-themed horror comedy featuring a well-crafted story and gruesome kills. And when I say gruesome kills, I mean, like really, really gruesome and graphic kills. The opening scene featuring mayhem during a Black Friday sale is just an appetizer. The movie will keep pushing the envelope until it reaches all-new gore levels. Everything culminates in one hell of a twisted dinner scene where our killer smashes a guy’s head in the most brutal way possible. Now, I had to start with this because I think all the graphic violence is the reason why Thanksgiving didn’t get a bigger rating.
This should come as no surprise as the director is Eli Roth who already tested the limits with Hostel and The Green Inferno. While Hostel was a straight-up torture porn, the latter one features a coherent story. Here, we have an even more elaborate albeit predictable story pushing the torture porn stuff in the background. What I didn’t know at the time I was watching this movie was that I’d already seen it. It was one of the fake trailers that you can see in the Grindhouse package (Planet Terror, Death Proof). Thanksgiving is actually the third movie from that package to get proper treatment after Hobo With a Shotgun and Machete.
And it’s just as good as them, if not better. However, you should know that they’ve decided to ditch the original story. A story that was hilarious in its own right. I would love to hear about a boy who was in love with a turkey and went crazy after his father killed it for Thanksgiving. The final version of the movie follows a classic slasher formula. A year after that horrific Black Friday massacre at RightMart, a mysterious person started posting weird social media posts. It would appear that he holds a grudge against some of the survivors. And then, one by one, he will start taking their lives. So, you’ve got a masked killer, a bunch of teens, and a clueless sheriff, a perfect recipe for a perfect slasher.
The identity of the killer remains a mystery until the last 15 minutes, helping with the atmosphere. What helps even more are well-written characters and the storytelling. Yes, we still have the stereotypical jocks, nerds, and cheerleaders but they’re tastefully stereotypical. We will learn more about them as time goes on. Each of their stories will nicely fit together with the main one. And there’s a lot of them. I completely forgot about one guy and then, when he showed up, I remembered him and his story and thought shit, he could be the killer. Out talented and young cast was also good.
Stunningly beautiful Nell Verlaque was the right choice for the lead and we also have Patrick Dempsey in a quite unusual role for him. Comedian Tim Dillon demonstrated his acting talents and it is always nice to see Gina Gershon. The humor here is subtle and sparse, focusing more on the bizarre nature of the kills. The killer itself, known only as The Carver, also looks quite ridiculous with that pilgrim mask. And as soon as I mentioned the word mask, I remembered another slasher featuring a literally masked killer. And I think you know what’s the movie I’m talking about.
Thanksgiving may be a bit over-the-top and too gory but it’s also a lot of fun. The pacing is excellent and I wasn’t bored for a single minute watching it. I think this is simply a movie you either love or hate. I went into it expecting nothing and I got everything. There were a couple of really memorable scenes including one intense chase around the house with the killer. Finally, the ending leaves things open for a possible sequel which I hope we’re going to get sooner rather than later.
Director: Eli Roth
Writers: Jeff Rendell, Eli Roth
Cast: Nell Verlaque, Patrick Dempsey, Gabriel Davenport, Addison Rae, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Milo Manheim
Fun Facts: The appearance of the killer known as The Pilgrim or The Carver was inspired by John Carver paintings of the people aboard Mayflower.