Thanksgiving is no Halloween. Hell, Christmas is even cooler than Thanksgiving. Halloween has ghosts, monsters and mayhem; Christmas has, if you play your cards right, gifts that may include DVDs of movies that involve ghosts, monsters and mayhem. What does Turkey Day have? Getting together with fellow humans and gorging yourself on food?â€¦Blech, lame with a capital whatever.
(Note: Please do not offer up football as a way to entertain myself on this day, call me BETTY WHITE but Iâ€™d rather drink a mason jar full of thumbtacks than watch a sport that allows (and pays) a convicted dog torturer to participate. Burn in hell Michael Vick!)
Due to its general sucky nature nobody makes good horror movies about Thanksgiving. Thereâ€™s BLOOD FREAK and 1981â€™s HOME SWEET HOME, but one stars a mutant turkey and the other stars JAKE â€œBody By Jakeâ€ STEINFELD; nobody knows which idea is less beguiling. I know ELI ROTH made that snazzy trailer about a Thanksgiving slasher movie but (between you me and the lamppost) like much of what ELI has to offer, itâ€™s far too minimal in length to truly satisfy.
With Thanksgiving you have to get creative and as always, being creative involves rejecting reality outright. None of the following movies actually revolve around Thanksgiving per se but, if you squint your eyes, stand on your head and drink plenty of moonshine, these ten films just might get you through the turkey of all holidays.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
I have the tendency to put not only this movie; but this particular dinner scene into just about every list I have ever concocted and here I go again. Theyâ€™re not exactly chowing down on green bean casserole here, but I bet YOUR family is starting to look pretty damn good to you right about now. Well, most of them anyway.
TROLL 2 (1990)
I donâ€™t recommend that anyone reenact this scene that involves a child urinating on the family dinner table, but it is empowering to know that we all have the power to bring din-din to a grinding halt any time we want to if need be.
AMERICAN GOTHIC (1987)
More weirdoes to make your family look normal! If you have an adult child still living at home watch this flick and take heart that at least they arenâ€™t a psychopathic murdererâ€¦yet!
Iâ€™m reaching here, reaching like Aunt John for the last drumstick even, but besides crazy musical numbers, this Italian production has a guy in a giant owl costume killing people. Now, an owl is certainly not a turkey, but it is a bird and revenge is revenge. Now that I think of it, why not watch HITCHâ€™s THE BIRDS (1963) to boot (or perhaps hoot).
Pilgrims! They may have been famous for cooking birdies in the 1500’s but what they really loved roasting up in the 1600’s were outspoken women, people with red hair and anybody who stared at them a second too long. Innocent people were actually preferable to burn than witches â€˜cuz innocent people would not wait centuries to come back and bitch slap your decedents!
CROWHAVEN FARM (1970)
More of those scary buckle booters! Not to be outdone by witches, the Pilgrims of this seventies television movie travel through time to extract their own revengeâ€¦copycats!
This FRED OLAN RAY movie may almost be as bad as the already mentioned HOME SWEET HOME & BLOOD FREAK, but it has a killer Indian in it and thatâ€™s good enough for me. What better way to celebrate the holiday than with a good scalping! (Now that I think of it, why not watch WILLIAM LUSTIGâ€™s MANIAC (1980) as well.)
I dig this underrated oddity, is there any movie like it? We’re in the 1840’s now and there may not be any Thanksgiving to be found here, but there is definitely some serious eating going down and nobody has to suffer the effects of tryptophan! (How about a double feature with 1993’s ALIVE?)
ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1993)
While suffering summer camp Addams’ Wednesday and Pugsley are forced to participate in a mind numbingly vapid (and very unseasonal) Thanksgiving play. Viewing their brilliant off-script sabotage of the production is the closest I have ever been to wanting to have children of my own…
THE SHINING (1980)
STEPHEN KING may have been talking about being a bad drunk daddy in his classic novel but KUBRICK seems to have had a sharper axe to grind. (In fact, KUBRICK switched the novelâ€™s weapon of choice, a roque mallet, to an axe.) Although the focus on twisted family dysfunction would be enough to recommend this stone cold classic for Thanksgiving Day viewing, letâ€™s not forget that our favorite haunted hotel is built on an Indian burial groundâ€¦
In fact, many have read the filmâ€™s multiple references, both visual and audio (That scary tribal wail and that creepy rattling sound!), as clues that , what was really on KUBRICKâ€™s chopping block (what was really haunting the Overlook), was the blood red harvest of imperialism and the conscious denial of mass genocide (Thanksgiving!).
Sure, there are some people that will say that even though KUBRICK hung native American artwork in the lobby, turned every Calumet baking soda can (which features an Indian cheif) in the hotel pantry face front and then dated that final photo of Jack Torrence â€œJuly fourthâ€, that all such interpretations are spuriousâ€¦those â€œsomeâ€ people are called white people.
Wait! There’s more!
SPECIAL BONUS PICK: EYES OF FIRE (1983)
Besides CROWHAVEN FARM this film is the only one here not currently available on DVD. I watched it about twenty years ago and although itâ€™s a cheapie it really got under my skin. Frontier folk (circa 1750), witchery and avenging Indian spirits swirl around in a sometimes hard to decipher mesmerizing brew. Iâ€™ve dusted off my VHS tape and plan to give it another viewing this Thanksgiving Day. Watch the clip below to get an idea of what Iâ€™m happily subjecting myself to; itâ€™s the anti-Macy parade!
Bah Thanksgiving is the worst! The food is nothing special, Miley Cyrus hijacks the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and I’m with you on the football situation.
So glad you included Addams Family Values! I love that scene with a passion. I also would have enjoyed some Poltergeist. If you are scrambling for more guests at your Thanksgiving Feast invite some of the locals! They just happen to be buried under your house. Yes wrong location geographically but since when did anyone pay attention to history on Thanksgiving?
Great list, unk – you realize you just started a run on old vhs copies of Eyes of Fire, don’t you?
“…far too minimal in length to truly satisfy.” OK, unk, what do you know about Eli and how do you know it?
Ah, great lil Eyes of Fire tidbit!! Â I was able to rent this VHS from an I Luv Video here in Austin a few years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Â This weird little gem deserves the DVD treatment! Â Nice list, Unk!
Great List,as always.Â What about POLTERGEIST? They had that whole Indian burial ground misfortune too.Â And – although Ive never seen it – wasnt THE MANITOU about some crazy Indian curse???
Do NOT Piss Off The Indians. Those muthas really know how to hold a grudge!
YES Pet Sematary completely counts.
I would add The Scarlet Letter- that endÂ scene… so much blood and hysterical moments. Instant classic.
Also- Pocohontas which I can never spell and yes to Indian in the cubboard because he WAS pissed off at that annoying cowboy.
I’ll think of more later and we collaborate.
Oooh, how about The Dark Power?Â It’s got 4 pissed off indian spirits, and Lash La Rue, our badass park ranger that whips evil into shape one lick at a time!
HAHAHAHA!Â “Girrrrrrl, you betta watch out, honey, Toltec sorcerers were baaad dudes”
How about the “Bad Medicine” episode of Kolchak, with Richard Kiel as the Diablero?
Â ABC even showed that one the day after Thanksgiving.
Poltergeist didn’t have an Indian burial ground though…It was just a standard cemetery.Â Well, a standard cemetery with a bunch of apocalypseÂ cult bastards buried beneath if you want to count Poltergeist II.Â Mr. Teague is even sure to point out that it’s not an ancient tribal burial ground — “They’re just…People.”
I demand retractions all around!!!Â Kidding, I added this post-script when I realized how overly seriously I was taking this issue.Â 🙂
(As for Poltergeist II, it does have Taylor the Not-Me Indian, but he’s a good guy, I’ll leave it for discussion on whether to count it.)
I always thought it was implied that at some point there was an Indian Burial solely on the Freelings property which is why we hear a chorus of Indian Drums right before the “beast” takes a bit out of the face peeler guy.
This also explains why none of the other houses on the block experienced similar paranormal activity, they didn’t have the extra magic of the Indian Burial ground?
Maybe I just misunderstood it…
I found this…
The proposed location for Steve’s new home rests next to a vast cemetery: “Not much room for a pool, is there?” he surmises. Teague reassures him: “We own all the land. We’ve already made arrangements for relocating the cemetery.” Steve is flabbergasted that a sacred graveyard would be disturbed for further development by the greedy real estate company. An explanation for Carol Anne’s abduction arises – developers built their own house over a bulldozed, sacred Indian burial ground:
See!! I knew regular people wouldn’t be banging drums before an attack. Again sorry for the politcally uncorrect-ness.
That doesn’t mean that it was an Indian burial ground in’76, though, does it?Â It just means that their company has a history of moving cemeteries.Â If Teague is reassuring Steven that they’re not going to be disrupting a tribal burial ground now, why would he immediately come out and say that they disrupted one before, and right where Steven’s house is?
Also, why are the bodies that pop up in the coffins at the end wearing evening dresses and pearls?
The cemetery contained Indians and normal people.? I just don’t see any other way of explaining the drumming and highly active poltergeist/portal to the other side.
I found this too…
Despite being found in parodies ofÂ Poltergeist,Â PoltergeistÂ itself averts this trope. When Steven tries to get answers from theÂ greedy land developer, his answer is along the lines of, “What’s the problem? It’s not like it was built on an Indian Burial Ground.” (He’s technically correct, as the subdivision in which Steven and his family reside was actually built over a regular cemetery; the curse-and-vengeance aspects of the trope still seem to apply, however.)
I think I know what you mean, Andre, by the “drumming” sound, but I’veÂ always interpreted it as some kind of supernatural booming accompanying the indoor windstorm that picks up right then, not an Indian drum…It’s not all thatÂ rhythmic, is it?
The movie makes it clear that the concentrated high level of activity is because the spirits are after Carol Anne, and I always assumed that they were made distinctly aware of the Freelings especially because they were the first family to move in to Cuesta Verde.
AndÂ do Indian burials use coffins at all, or headstones (Pissed Steven: “You only moved the headstones!!!Â WHYYY?!!”)?
Yeah that’s probably true. Â I guess my young mind always interpreted it in that way and it stuck all these years later!
I think just from googling this subject that even though it’s not said in the film, LOTS of people believe that there is an indian burial site under the property…but maybe it’s just because an Indian burial site is mentioned in the dialogue?Â
Ladies and gentlemen, this is called teamwork.Â Â Good on us, mythbusting Kindertraumateers!Â Now it’s up to us to get the word out…
Ive never been a big fan of the POLTERGEIST franchise. Ive seen Part 1 on TV twice and half of Part 2 and about half of the dreadful part 3 so this is not my area of expertise.Â HOWEVER – I do remember vividly having a MAD or CRACKED magazine in my room for YEARS when I was a kid (my Mom might even still have it!) where they parody the first one and in THAT it was an Ancient Indian Burial Ground, so seeing that I read that comic more thanÂ I actually watched the film itself I think thats why I thought there were dead Indians in the Craig T Nelson’s pool.Â
And oh yeah- I sorta remember an Indian guy walking around in the second one and a pissed off skeltal dude saying “You didnt let the Indian in your house, did you????” a lot so…..
By the way, not a huge fan of FAMILY GUY but their POLTERESIT epsiode IS very good.
Thank you for mentioning CROWHAVEN FARM, one of my all-time favorites.Â I am truly thankful for John Carradine, Virginia Gregg, Cindy Eilbacher (the ultimate anti-Marcia Brady) and Lloyd Bochner.
“but Iâ€™d rather drink a mason jar full of thumbtacks than watch a sport that allows (and pays) a convicted dog torturer to participate. Burn in hell Michael Vick!”
How about “The Ice Storm”? It’s not a technically a horror movie, but some of those clothes are pretty horrifying. And Jamey Sheridan banging Joan Allen in the back seet of his wood paneled family hoopty wagon……