I’ve heard of long movie trailers, but this is ridiculous.
Yep, just 16 years after it was first teased as one of the fake upcoming attractions in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 double collaboration Gravel houseEli Roths Thanksgiving has finally hit the big screen. With plenty of the gore promised in the trailer, this throwback slasher pic will satisfy genre fans who will appreciate the titular holiday and finally get its own horror movie, along with Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. This one isn’t an instant classic, ranking anymore along the lines of April Fool’s joke than the gold standard of its kind, Halloween. But it offers plenty of cheap thrills, or rather cheap kills, presented with the kind of attention to bloodthirsty detail that horror fans crave. Too bad there aren’t really any real grindhouses anymore.
It comes down to
No turkey (but nothing to be thankful for either).
Date of publication: Friday, November 17
Form: Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Gina Gershon
Director: Eli Roth
Screenwritingr: Jeff Rendell
Rated R, 1 hour 47 minutes
Set in (where else?) Plymouth, Massachusetts, the film begins spectacularly, with an extended, expertly staged sequence depicting a riot at a big box store called Right Mart (any resemblance to Walmart is presumably strictly coincidental) on Thanksgiving night , the start of the Black Friday sale. The tragic event is an only slightly exaggerated representation of the kind of violent chaos that occurred in several places and results in several gruesome deaths, including one involving one of the more recognizable cast members. Needless to say, the harrowing images captured on a cell phone camera are quickly going viral.
A year later, the unrepentant store owner (Rick Hoffman, made for films like this) plans to reopen the store during the holidays, much to the dismay of his daughter (Nell Verlaque, whose big, expressive eyes guarantee her a future as scream queen if she wishes). But someone else is even more upset, namely the serial killer – who wears a mask with the bearded face of John Carver, the pilgrim who became the first governor of Plymouth Colony – who starts sending people who were in the store that fateful evening goods. (The mask isn’t as scary as the blank mask Michael Myers wore, but it gets the job done.)
Investigating the murders is McDreamy, excuse me, Sheriff Newland (played by Patrick Dempsey, fresh from his coronation as People‘Sexiest Man Alive’, which I’m sure is a complete coincidence). The hard-working sheriff literally has his work cut out for him as John Carver lives up to his name by working his way through the community, including some of its particularly attractive young people. The murders, performed with the kind of practical effects you can imagine the creators gleefully dreaming up, are quite imaginative; there’s one where a sexy cheerleader (TikTok sensation Addison Rae) is stabbed to death on a trampoline and another where a parade driver gets his head impaled through the wooden bowsprit of a Mayflower float (loved the detail of the nose looking down at one side drooped as a result).
“No one appreciates subtlety anymore,” one of the characters ironically complains, and the film is a good example of that. There’s exactly nothing subtle about this effort, including the heavy New England accents of many of the actors, which result in funny exclamations like “Oh, my Gawd!”
The screenplay by Jeff Rendell, who co-created the story with Roth, contains a welcome dose of the kind of self-aware humor that reassures us that the film shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but without veering too heavily into the kind of meta territory . the Scream movies are now dead. There are also clever visual touches throughout, such as when Jessica tries to hide from the killer by blending in with a series of mannequin heads wearing wigs.
Not all dialogue sparkles; when the killer, whose secret identity proves all too predictable, cheesily promises a potential victim, “There will be no leftovers!” you can guess that the line will be prominently featured in the film’s advertising. There are moments when you can feel Thanksgiving putting too much effort into a cult status it’s unlikely to achieve. But it looks like the movie will air like a turkey on cable channels and streaming services in the coming Thanksgivings.
Production: Dragonfly Entertainment, EMP Productions
Distributor: TriStar Pictures, Spyglass Media Group
Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Gina Gershon
Director: Eli Roth
Screenwriter: Jeff Rendell
Producers: Eli Roth, Roger Birnbaum, Jeff Rendell
Executive Producers: Gary Barber, Peter Oillataguerre, Greg Denny, Kate Harrison Karman, Chris Stone
Director of Photography Milan Chadima
Production Designer: Peter Mihaichuk
Editors: Michele Conroy, Michel Aller
Costume Designer: Leslie Kavanagh, Composer: Brandon Roberts
Casting: Mary Vernieu, Bret Howe
Rated R, 1 hour 47 minutes