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?…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 I'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. There's BLOOD FREAK and 1981's HOME SWEET HOME, but one stars a mutant turkey and the other stars JAKE "Body By Jake" 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, it'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. They'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 don'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 aren't a psychopathic murderer…yet!
I'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 HITCH'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 revenge…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 that'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 LUSTIG'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 novel'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, let's not forget that our favorite haunted hotel is built on an Indian burial ground…
In fact, many have read the film's multiple references, both visual and audio (That scary tribal wail and that creepy rattling sound!), as clues that , what was really on KUBRICK'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 "July fourth", that all such interpretations are spurious…those "some" 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 it'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. I'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 I'm happily subjecting myself to; it's the anti-Macy parade!