Director: Eli Roth
Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Gina Gershon
Runtime: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: R21 (Violence and Gore)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Opening Day: 30 November 2023
Synopsis: After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts – the birthplace of the holiday. Picking off residents one by one, what begins as random revenge killings are soon revealed to be part of a larger, sinister holiday plan. Will the town uncover the killer and survive the holidays…or become guests at his twisted holiday dinner table?
Imagine a dreamy-looking single guy who knows his way around the oven, and that too in a sheriff's uniform, showing up at your door with a potluck dish on Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t you be thrilled to death?
Set in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the birthplace of both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the 16-year-old Grindhouse trailer which is finally developed into a full-fledged movie opens with Patrick Dempsey dropping by at an acquaintance’s residence for dinner before rushing off to a crowd-control situation. And distress ensues, masterfully giving birth to another excuse to have a longer Halloween mayhem.
Setting the tone for the killing spree, John Carver House, the town’s historical monument is ransacked, vandalised and a certain someone steals the axe on display. The killer on the prowl sets the table of blood-soaked memorabilia of the slain at the horror buffet with their remains and invites a few that are still breathing, as he sticks by the adage that revenge are best served cold. The axe-wielding murderer who dresses for the occasion by donning a John Carver mask, hat and a bizarre pilgrim coat also deserves a nod of respect for calming ruffled nerves of feline lovers, as he ensures that one of his victim’s cat is fed amidst the chaotic calm. It’s at this very point that the audience makes peace with the fact that the antagonist in question has a legit motive behind the carnages.
Prancing along the edges of social satire, this I-know-what-you-did-last-Thanksgiving film is surprisingly a quick-paced thriller. With events that question social consciousness propelling the plot forward, what’s even hair-raising is, these do happen in waking life where crowds go bonkers for the best deals and bargains. And Thanksgiving goes a notch above by instilling a message of blatant greed and capitalism that throws a dark shroud over the American holiday, which is meant to be well-spent with loved ones. Pivoting on revenge, the 106 minutes of death galore cleverly ties a spectre of colonialism and the darker side of Thanksgiving to sinisterism.
Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Addison Rae and, of course, the latest People's Sexiest Man Alive are part of the ensemble. There's enough star power on board for Thanksgiving to cater to multi generations. Based on a whodunnit theme, this slasher sub-genre, boasts a couple of scenes that will be etched into our memory long into time while checking all the boxes of a supremely gory number. Roth has once again proved that he is the one and only Eli Roth with this elevated horror. Thanks to the writer duo of Thanksgiving to have thrown in enough disturbing twists to keep everyone second guessing. Given the sequence and pain-o-metre of deaths, one could somewhat gauge the victim’s role in the aggressor’s life. Staples of Thanksgiving, such as oven, corncob holder and turkey glaze were ingeniously introduced. Corncob holder in place of cotton swab? Ouch!
Sony Pictures certainly did a remarkable job in gatekeeping some of the best scenes in the trailer that will be remembered, referenced and even parodied far into the future. The oven death scene, which was yet another act to prove that Roth rarely disappoints is just too harrowing to watch; let alone imagine it.
Although the narrative doesn't invest much on its characters (not long enough for us to care about their sad fates), the routine kills that punctuate the plot retain the pleasant pace of the film. The murder mystery effortlessly embodies the crassness and shock value of a classic slasher flick. The goofy murders which are a stark contrast to the graveness of the matter at hand might pilfer the charm of this gut-wrencher. But then again, the plot needs something to offset the grimness of the R-rated number that features a torn scalp, ruptured jugular vein and intestines pouring out. The dialogues that are embellished with cheesy one-liners do in fact, add to the allure of this holiday-themed flick. Although the suspense-filled thriller presented varsity letterman jackets, parades against an obscure weather as the backdrop, crowded diner with booths screaming nostalgia rather tastefully, the original Grindhouse aesthetic could have been preserved. Speaking of retro elements, there’s even a narrated teaser trailer that whisks us back to fuzzy yesteryears.
Scouting for strength of plot and immaculate characterisations in an Eli Roth page-turner is analogous to having a snowball’s chance in hell, One would have countless reasons to relish Thanksgiving. And one of which would be the fact that, it delivers on its promise with brutal kills and ridiculous humour and a 17th century axe used in the most creative yet ruthless fashion. And since it’s Thanksgiving, let us all be grateful for a holiday-themed slasher gem that doesn’t end on an unresolved cliffhanger. Let the horror feast begin with a kudos to the team that came up with a brand new definition of “leaving no crumbs behind.”
(You are cordially invited to the sanguinary Thanksgiving horror buffet. Help yourself to the gorefest cooked up by Eli Roth, the man himself)
Review by Asha Gizelle Mariadas