Wednesday, November 22

Thanksgiving Review


Dir: Eli Roth

Starring: Nell Verlaque, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Milo Manheim, Addison Rae, Gina Gershon, Rick Hoffman, and Patrick Dempsey

1h 47m

Director Eli Roth returns to the gory genre roots that sparked his career with a holiday horror movie teased with a fake trailer in 2007's "Grindhouse." "Thanksgiving" is a mean-spirited, often hilarious, gory slasher film that sets its placemat at the table of the best Thanksgiving horror films. Roth, a more than 20-year veteran of horror filmmaking, infuses "Thanksgiving" with grotesque effects, characters you love to hate, and holiday glee used in the most inappropriate ways. 

After Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the local megastore is readying for the annual Black Friday sale. The promise of a free waffle maker drives the angry crowd into a frenzy, and they break through barricades and eventually into the store. Three people are dead, and dozens are injured in the event. The following Thanksgiving, a masked killer utilizes the name of real-life colonist John Carver and, in full pilgrim attire, begins stalking and killing the greedy people who played a role in the deadly events the previous year. 

The 80s-styled trailer from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's "Grindhouse" was one of four faux teasers to start and bridge the double-feature event. Eli Roth's Thanksgiving-inspired trailer felt the most authentic as a throwback slasher film. 

Roth expands and fleshes out the story as a modern horror-comedy, introducing the film with the worst kind of holiday consumerism behavior, which quickly fuels the vengeful masked killer while incorporating creative ways to punish the awful people of Plymouth. Much of the narrative execution rests on the shoulders of simplistic slasher movie troupes and paper-thin characters. Eli Roth has a particular character style in all his films; an easy term for these characters would be "toxic," and they populate the small town. It's hard to feel any sympathy for the residents of Plymouth, especially the young men who are walking bundles of testosterone in varsity letterman's jackets. The characters' behavior in the film's early moments makes everyone fair prey and easy to cheer for John Carver during the many ingenious sequences of gory violence. 

From the beginning moments of the film, the admiration in style and structure of old-school holiday-themed slasher movie vibes is on solid display. Roth and writer Jeff Randell craft "Thanksgiving" as an updated homage to 1980s genre cinema. The memory of the former faux trailer from "Grindhouse" arrives in different ways throughout this film; reimagining these moments is fun to watch. Where the trailer went for shock value, with extreme scenarios, the feature-length film is still graphic with its much better makeup effects but made for a broader audience interaction. 

Combining old-school vibes amidst a new-school influence offers some laugh-out-loud moments of satire. "Thanksgiving" never loses grasp of its campiness but maintains an intelligent understanding of the mystery underneath the masked John Carver character. While the unwinding of the plot in the final act struggles to retain its tight pacing that hides some of the B-movie seams, it doesn't keep the film from being a crowd-pleaser. 

There are only a few quality Thanksgiving horror films. Yes, the 1987 lesser-known "Blood Rage" is suitable for a few laughs with an eager theater audience, and the 2014 horror-thriller "Kristy" will satisfy with its suspenseful action. Still, the catalog for Thanksgiving horror is few and far between. Director Eli Roth understands the audience on target and the history of films within this subgenre, making "Thanksgiving" an easy addition to celebrated seasonal scary movies.  

Monte's Rating

3.50 out of 5.00

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