THANKSGIVING Review: Eli Roth Serves Up A New Holiday Horror Classic
One year after a Black Friday (ish) stampede kills multiple residents of Plymouth, Massachusetts, a costumed killer is out for revenge against anyone even remotely involved in the tragedy in Eli Roth's years-in-the-making Thanksgiving. What famously began as a fake trailer in Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez's cult box office flop, Grindhouse, has finally found its way to the big screen in this feature length slasher from the Hostel filmmaker. Does it live up to the hype? While it's not exactly the film promised by those first three minutes back in 2007, Thanksgiving dishes out creative kills and enough red herrings to satisfy bloodthirsty horror fans looking for a good time.
Gabby (Addison Rae) and her friends were all there for the Right Mart Thanksgiving massacre, and a year later they are looking to move on, well, most of them are. When bodies start to drop, the victims seem to be getting closer to this crew as Gabby happens to be the daughter of the store’s owner, played with a delightfully shit-eating grin by Rick Hoffman.
Police Sheriff Newton (Patrick Dempsey) is on the case, but the killer manages to stay one step ahead of the investigation, putting the entire town on edge. Thanksgiving is days away and it looks like another massacre is at hand if somebody can’t stop the carnage. Finding themselves in the crosshairs, Gabby and her pals team up with Newton to find and stop the Thanksgiving Killer, but he’s got a few gruesome tricks up his sleeve.
After years making a reputation as the king of bro-horror and one of the poster boys for torture porn, Eli Roth finally takes a stab at a straight up slasher, and it’s shockingly good. Borrowing liberally from past classics, Thanksgiving nevertheless dispenses a great modern, meta take on the subgenre, never taking itself too seriously, and providing the buckets of blood and gore that an audience demands. Harnessing his talent for writing quippy/douchey dialogue, Roth’s horror comedy becomes the rarest of gems, a film that succeeds in both the horror and the comedy, and it’s truly satisfying.
A series of genuinely impressive set pieces – from the opening tightly choreographed chaos of the Thanksgiving massacre flashback to the numerous uber violent kill scenes that punctuate the film’s well earned run time – Thanksgiving is perhaps Roth’s most successful film. After bursting onto the scene with quasi-slasher Cabin Fever two decades ago, he’s circled back to pay homage to his influences, and he’s done them proud.
If there was any trepidation at expanding the fake trailer to feature length, fear not, Roth has paid it off. Thankfully updated to 2023 standards by removing the more gratuitous sexual violence of the original short, Thanksgiving still manages to hit the target on each iconic beat that had audiences clamoring for this feature for the last fifteen years. In the pantheon of holiday themed slashers launched by the iconic OGs – Black Christmas, Halloween, April Fool’s Day – America’s day of thanks finally has its flagship, Thanksgiving serves up a heaping plate of gory goodness, and horror fans will eat it up.