Just for some clarification: the film is nothing like the Grindhouse trailer where the grainy, low-tech aesthetics are concerned. Nor is the film set in the early 80s or the 90s but in the current time. And that means; bring on the smartphones everyone, so we can connect with the MODERN world! Meh…
We’re in the small town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, which is also the birthplace of the Thanksgiving holiday tradition. The town is preparing for the annual parade, but first there’s Black Friday where the owner of the local Walmart (here called Rightmart) is getting all ready for the zombie horde to gather outside before the doors open. All hell breaks loose in the usual way, but it quickly escalates to a massacre where people gets stamped to death, arms and feet gets broken and an important key character gets her head’s scalp ripped off in some unique bizarre way. What a great opening!
We then jump to a year later where the town is still in shock from the last year’s incident. The parade is still planned to go on as usual, but the holiday spirit is pretty much tainted. We also have a bunch of teens and other folks who start to get brutally killed by some mysterious person in a pilgrim outfit and with a John Carver mask. As the body count piles up, the teens in town have to team up to expose the killer as they are getting tagged on cryptic instagram posts that hints they’re a part of some ritualistic revenge-spree connected to the Rightmart incident.
The characters/body counts aren’t as insufferable as they’re in most of Eli Roth’s films, and that may be because the script for Thanksgiving was written by some other guy by the name Jeff Rendell. That being said, most of the characters are flat and bland like a NPC (non-playable character) and I couldn’t remember a single name or a character trait that made them different from one another. The funny thing is that we have a NPC joke here while they sit in a diner and have some boring conversations. The only one among the body counts who seemed enthusiastic and to be having fun was Tim Dillon, and he should have had some more screentime. He should also be the final guy. That would be hilarious. The only one who stands out is the killer with the cloak, captain hat, the John Carver mask and the axe. Still, I have to say that the motive of the killer here was the weakest shit ever.
Anyway – as a slasher film, Thanksgiving is overall an entertaining watch with some great and brutal kills mixed with some suspenseful chase scenes. Instead of some generic knife-stabbings, we have face-skin that gets ripped off from a freezer door, heads get ripped off, some poor dude gets his face impaled, torsos gets slashed in half… Yummy! The gore delivers, in other words, where Eli Roth’s love for old-school slashers like Pieces and Happy Birthday to Me spiced with some elements of the 90s shines through. And had this been made in the 80s it would have gotten added on the video nasty list in a bloody heartbeat, that’s for sure. Surprisingly, there’s some CGI gore here but I’ve seen a lot worse. The opening scene with the Black Friday riot in Walmart/Rightmart was epic, which I assume was meant to be satirical, but that incident couldn’t be closer to the actual clown world reality. The parade scene is also a great highlight, where it gets pretty messy, and a third act which involves a crispy and morbid dinner scene. Enough gore candy to fill your belly here. Burp.
There’s also a scene with a fluffy cat here and… just wait for it. And yes, the trampoline scene which alone became a classic in the faux trailer is of course here. No titties, though.
Despite the NPC’s and that I missed some of the more grainy and primitive image quality, this is overall an entertaining and a welcoming addition to the Holiday slasher horror genre with razor sharp edges. And I wish that the Christmas-themed slasher films had the balls to amp up the grisly brutality like this one did. Because most of them are tame and forgettable trash, with some very few exceptions which I can count on one hand. Hopefully our man Damien Leone will finally change that with his next Terrifier movie.
And as I’m writing this, it has grossed 36 million of its budget of 15 million, and a sequel is already in development. Nice.
Director: Eli Roth
Writers: Jeff Rendell, Eli Roth
Country & year: US, 2023
Actors: Patrick Dempsey, Ty Olsson, Gina Gershon, Gabriel Davenport, Karen Cliche, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Derek McGrath, Katherine Trowell, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Mika Amonsen, Amanda Barker