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Derrick Dunn

Eli Roth carves up the gory goods in the holiday slasher Thanksgiving

One of the Splat Plack members, Mr. Eli Roth, finally delivers his dream project, Thanksgiving, from Tri Star Pictures. Jeff Rendell pens the film’s screenplay. The film is based on Roth’s mock trailer from 2007’s vastly underrated Grindhouse and is the third feature-length film adapted from that film’s faux trailers after Machete and Hobo with a Shotgun.

The film opens in 2022 during Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. On one side of the town, overly anxious shoppers are gathered outside of the superstore Right Mart, hoping to grab a free waffle maker. Meanwhile, the store’s owner, Thomas (Rick Hoffman), enjoys dinner with his family, including his daughter Jessica (Nell Verlaque). To help with the rush, Thomas calls in store manager Mitch (Ty Olsson), much to the chagrin of Mitch’s wife Amanda (Gina Gershon).

Jessica decides to link up with friends Evan, Scuba, Gabby (Addison Rae), Yulia, and her boyfriend, collegiate baseball superstar Bobby (Jalen Thomas Brooks). Evan convinces the group to stop by the store and go through the back door. Unfortunately, the crowd outside sees them and stampedes into the store, resulting in multiple people dying, including Amanda, and Bobby is also injured, which puts an end to his baseball career.

One year after the stampede, a mysterious killer named John Carver starts terrorizing the town to avenge the incident. He picks off those who were involved in the tragedy one by one. Together with Sheriff Nelson (played by Patrick Dempsey), Jessica and her friends realize that there is a more sinister holiday plan in motion, and they must identify the killer before they all become his latest victims.

One of the highlights of the film Grindhouse was the fake trailers between the two movies. Of all the trailers, I always felt that Thanksgiving had the most promise, and I’m happy that the film finally got the green light. Potential viewers must consider a few things. Thanksgiving is a horror film that builds upon the elements from its trailer.

The trampoline murder, which was only suggested before, is now depicted in all its gruesome detail. In contrast, the characters and plot follow the formula, but that’s the intent. Any horror fan will argue that this angle aligns with the slasher films of the 1980s, adding to the overall atmosphere of the movie.

The teen actors outside of Addison Rae and Jalen Thomas Brooks are unknown, so I did find myself rooting for them and hoping they didn’t fall victim to John Carver. The film’s senior actors, including Patrick Dempsey, Gina Gershon (in a too-brief role), and Rick Hoffman, all provide the suitable quips one would expect from the adult genre.

Thanksgiving is light on the scares, except for one moment. However, Roth compensates for the lack of scares by portraying gruesome kills. Although I won’t delve into how the characters are eliminated, I can say that Roth disposes of his victims in innovative ways that align with the holiday’s theme. In addition, the film is also amusing with all of the jokes landing.

Roth’s aim with Thanksgiving is to capture the essence of exploitation films that were the norm at cinemas in the seventies and your local video store in the eighties. He successfully draws from his inspirations with a strong understanding of the genre.

Final Grade: B +

Thanksgiving is in theaters now.

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Eli Roth carves up the gory goods in the holiday slasher Thanksgiving