When one thinks of the horror movie genre there are a few, select names that come to mind - Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), John Carpenter (Halloween), Stephen King (The Shining), and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity) for example. However, one would be remiss if they did not include writer, director, and producer, Eli Roth (Hostel) in that mix.
Since 2002's Cabin Fever, Roth has been delighting and frightening horror fans worldwide. This Thanksgiving Holiday Roth again will make audiences jump out of their seats with the aptly titled, Thanksgiving. Opening on November 17, 2023, the movie stars Patrick Dempsey (Scream 3), Rick Hoffman (Hostel), and Gina Gershon (Face/Off).
One year has passed since the fatal Thanksgiving Day Stampede at the local discount store in Plymouth, Massachusetts and the townspeople are once again gearing up for the annual high school football game, watching the local parade and sitting down to family dinners. However, for one mysterious individual, Thanksgiving is a reminder of what was lost and a time to exact revenge upon those responsible for causing that loss. Jessica (Nell Verlaque; The Marijuana Conspiracy), her family, and her friends find themselves as the main targets for a killer terrorizing their town.
Co-writer and director Roth is known for terrifying and bloody films and, while Thanksgiving follows this trend, it also has a fun, campiness to it that makes it part horror/part comedy. He slowly builds the film's and characters' energies until the third act's explosive conclusion and infuses the movie with plenty of gore, as well as, over-the-top scenarios and images. There are a few lighthearted moments mixed in with gushing blood and jump scares which offers a slight departure from Roth's more serious directorial projects.
Dempsey plays the town's Sheriff, Newton, who always seems to be one step behind the killer. Gershon has a smaller, yet pivotal, role, who unfortunately is one of the casualties from the year prior. Hoffman oddly plays the straight man for much of the film even though he is typically known for his comedic roles. Verlaque is a relative newcomer but manages to grab the audience's attention. The rest of the supporting cast is good enough but no one stands out either positively or negatively.
The premise for Thanksgiving was born out of a fake trailer that Roth directed as part of the Tarantino/Rodriquez double feature film, Grindhouse (2007). In the movie, the trailer is minor but some of the ideas and scenes make their way into this feature. However, the trailer looks as if it was meant to have taken place over 30 years ago, but the feature is set in the present day with cell phones, video chats, and texting readily available to assist the killer and the victims. Perhaps the scariest thing about the film is the commercialization of both Thanksgiving, Christmas, and life in general. Without "Black Friday sales" that start on Thursday and cell phones with video cameras, none of the events leading up to the "trigger" that set off the killer would have happened or been caught on camera.
Thanksgiving is gory, gross, sick, and demented with a few laughs thrown in for good measure. It is sure to please horror fans in general and, more specifically, Roth's fans though they may not enjoy the moments of humor Roth weaves into the plot. If they are looking for another Hostel they aren't going to get it with Thanksgiving. What they will get is some over-the-top kills, one of the grossest scenes I have ever watched in a horror movie (when the killer carves the "turkey"), some excellent jump scares, and perhaps a sequel...?