Review by Jonathan Berk
Imagine hosting a Thanksgiving Day dinner with your favorite slasher movies. Picture little name cards that read Scream, Halloween, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Friday the 13th. Which would carve the turkey? Well, no matter who you may set a place for at your dinner, Director Eli Roth’s new film Thanksgiving does exactly that. It serves up plenty of slasher movie references for what will surely be a horror movie fan’s new holiday tradition.
The film begins with every introvert's nightmare: an angry mob outside a department store waiting for Black Friday sales. A tragedy ensues, and a year later a Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts. A few residents are murdered, and it doesn’t take long for it to become clear there is a larger holiday-themed connection.
Roth completely nails the tone of this film. It never sets out to “scare” the audience. That this is necessary is a misconception of the horror genre — as we tend to forget that what scares us is very subjective. Instead, he looks to shock us with inventive kills and some gruesome effects that may make even the most veteran horror viewer squirm a little. Of course, if violence and gore scare you, by all means prepare to be freaked out. However, it seems like the reaction Roth is going for is shock followed by laughs, and he succeeds in eliciting that reaction time and time again.
Like many slashers, the film centers around a group of high school students. Nell Verlaque plays Jessica, whose father owns the department store at the start of the film. It was her friends sneaking in the back to get a head start on the deals that really set the crowd off. That initial burst of horror at the top of the film establishes early what to expect, and despite some choppy editing, manages to introduce the bulk of our characters.
The killer's design in the film works with a simple plastic mask and pilgrim-style outfit. At the heart of the story is a whodunnit all centered around familiar slasher movie cliches and references. The opening of the film is a POV reminiscent of Halloween’s opening sequence. The group of friends and their attempt to figure out who the killer is feels like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. There are tons of other blatant homages to the films Roth has confessed love for in some medium or another, that fans will likely gobble up like a plateful of candied yams.
Thanksgiving fills a void of what to watch between Halloween and Christmas movies that have long needed filling. This holiday homage to slashers delivers a veritable cornucopia of kills and characters horror enthusiasts would surely rather host than those obnoxious relatives. Roth’s love of the genre comes across, and this may be the best full movie to come from the joke trailers between Death Proof and Planet Terror.
Thanksgiving will be heading to theaters on November 17.