Filmmaker Eli Roth has long been both revered and loathed by the film world. He’s an intelligent film buff with a personal love for horror who broke onto the scene 20 years ago with a low-budget horror comedy called ‘Cabin Fever’. Between that’s release and mainstream breakout hit ‘Hostel’ he had earned a nasty reputation as the “bro of horror”. His films were mean spirited, featured hateful language, and contained enough gore to upset a majority of audiences. But I’ve long been an Eli Roth apologist and I’ve always defended his work because of it’s creativity, overall contribution to the horror genre, and the manic fun he was obviously having behind the camera.
After nearly a decade of giving us material outside of the genre, we have finally been blessed with Eli’s newest horror film, ‘Thanksgiving’. Based off of a faux trailer that played during the ‘Grindhouse’ double feature in 2007, ‘Thanksgiving’ tells the story of Plymouth, Massachusetts. A landmark town for pilgrimage and tradition, where we begin by witnessing the carnage of a black Friday shopping spree to the extreme. This introduction entirely sets the table for the kind of dark humor and violence we can expect from this contemporary, yet nostalgic, slasher film. One year after the opening tragedy takes place, the town of Plymouth is being haunted by a masked killer who bears the face of John Carver – the first governor of the Plymouth colony who rode over aboard the Mayflower (with an ironically perfect slasher name).
Bodies stack high, sharp objects enter multiple orifices, blood is strewn across the walls, and a classic whodunnit unfolds in a harmonious balance of traditional horror and updated humor. I was laughing for a long duration of this film – there’s something poetically sick about the image of a man getting his throat slit on the broken glass of a door as he storms into a store only to stumble towards a large pile of waffle irons and collapse only after he’s successfully grabbed one.. and then the immediate follow up of someone else plucking the same waffle iron from his cold dead hands. And we haven’t even touched upon the mania of the Thanksgiving Dinner or the Holiday Parade!
If you’ve seen the original trailer to this film from over 15 years ago, then you get exactly what you were hoping for. If you’re out of the loop on the memeworthy lore of this film, then have no worries because it is so polished and well-established that it works for any audience out to find a good time. It blends a tone that feels like ‘Happy Birthday To Me’ & ‘Scream’ while sticking true to the graphic roots that Eli has already put on display as a filmmaker. You keep guessing who the killer is, no actors feel grating or artificial, and the violence just hits the line of uncomfortable instead of giddily dancing across it.
In my opinion, this was the film Eli Roth needed to make. It shuts up the haters, pleases the audience, and provides the horror community with a new slasher icon who has the potential to carry on in one way or another. I went in just happy to get a new film from him (especially while this was a side-project as post-production continues on his upcoming ‘Borderlands’ film), and I was so happy to enjoy it and see the community also embrace it.
Go see this film, it’s the perfect pairing for the Thanksgiving holiday. The only two other true Turkey-Day films that can even compare would be ‘Blood Rage’ and ‘Thankskilling’, and I strongly prefer this one.
‘Til Next Time,
Your source for everything horror