If you happen to be a slasher fan (and if you follow these pages, you know I’m a die hard), I highly recommend treading outdoors to catch Eli Roth’s on-point tribute to early eighties slice and dicers, aptly titled THANKSGIVING. I know Roth’s track record is a bit splotchy at best but he wisely does not try to reinvent the wheel here and utilizes his sincere fandom to deliver the gory goods. Based on his infamous and genuinely hilarious faux trailer featured in 2007’s GRINDHOUSE, this thankfully straight forward tribute/parody operates as an earnest love letter to the post HALLOWEEN slasher boom that spurned many a lifelong horror fan like myself. It’s basically forty years in the making and happily Roth is committed to coloring within the lines in his template coloring book, garnishing the tried and true with only welcome advancements in gore effects and a few well earned digs towards the unnerving rise of social media and big box stores. The result is like the holiday itself, unlikely to stun but cozy as hell. In fact, I believe it’s destined to be the first Eli Roth movie I watch more than once (and likely annually).
Way back in 2022, in the town on Plymouth, Massachusetts where historical landmarks and vowel mangling accents reign, a terrible tragedy occurred. A frenzied mob, high on the thought of free waffle irons, stampede the local RightMart store resulting in multiple casualties on Thanksgiving day. A year later, store owner Thomas Right (HOSTEL alumni Rick Hoffman) means to operate as if the incident never occurred but alas, a vengeful killer in a pilgrim outfit and a John Carver mask begins carving up locals connected to the incident in increasing bizarre ways. Naturally Right’s teenage daughter Jessica (Nell Verlaque) and her hip circle of SCREAM-ready friends are prime suspects and potential victims. Can good-natured Sheriff Newton (Patrick Dempsey) rifle through the clues and red herrings (oh how love triangles complicate things) in time to catch the killer before every chair at the corpse occupied Thanksgiving table is occupied? Only time will tell as Roth dutifully high-fives nearly every memorably gruesome base (mascot decapitation at the Thanksgiving parade, ALONE IN THE DARK ('82) inspired trampoline kill) previewed in his 16-year-old mock trailer (!). Oh, you’ll guess who the psycho killer is from miles away but that’s how our forefathers would have wanted it.
THANKSGIVING is an unabashed magpie production constructed from a variety of sources but I especially appreciated its allegiance to duel Canadian slasher heavyweights (both from 1981 and produced by John Dunning and Andre Link): MY BLOODY VALENTINE (character actor infused small town with a regrettable past gets spanked for moving on) and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (smug who-done-it? victims awaiting a morbid corpse-ridden ceremony). Interestingly, THANKSGIVING was even filmed in Canada which adds even more spice to the primo-slasher feel. Sporting a creepy plastic mask that recalls every killer from HALLOWEEN to VALENTINE and beyond, the John Carver (couldn’t ask for a more fitting last name) killer is strikingly vicious (silently stalky yet stomp-y when necessary) but earns a thousand extra awe points from me for stopping to feed a scene-stealing house cat (apparently played by one of the same felines who portrayed Church in 2019’s PET SEMATARY). Roth’s THANKSGIVING may not fly and soars with the greats but it’s satisfying, flavorful and there’s nary a dawdling moment. Sure, I’m happily stuffed to the gills with favorite slasher films from yesteryear but I’m glad I saved a little room for THANKSGIVING.