The sleepy town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, comes alive every year for Thanksgiving. After all, it is the birthplace of the holiday, and this year is no different as friends and families come together for those awkward dinners before getting ready to celebrate the night away with a trip to the local shopping store for the annual Black Friday sales. This year, though, all hell is about to break loose, literally as a crowd of crazed shoppers completely lose their minds and storm the store, resulting in the untimely and insane deaths of some of the locals.
Eli Roth (of Hostel fame) is best known as a director who loves to make you squirm in your seat. Throwing gore at any situation, even if it doesn’t warrant it. Throw a healthy dose of social commentary around our need for material things into the mix and show it off on social media, and you have Thanksgiving. Spawning a feature-length film from a 2007 Grindhouse trailer was always going to be a big ask, and thankfully, Roth has shown he knows when not to take the subject matter too seriously and can walk the fine line needed between horror and mild comedy.
Twelve months on from the Black Friday disaster the people of Plymouth have largely moved on from the disaster of last year’s holiday. All that is except for one, who is using the lead-up to the holiday to bring about some good old revenge. People involved in the stampede start turning up, well parts of them are turning up dead in increasingly bizarre ways. Picked off one by one by a ruthless individual dressed as a pilgrim and wearing the town’s very own symbol of celebration, a John Carver mask. The tension built by Roth in the ensuing scenes shows his mastery of the gore/comedy craft, one such moment the killer has just decapitated his target only to stop while walking out the door to feed the victim’s cat and give it a scratch.
Unfortunately, for all the good that Thanksgiving does, it doesn’t commit itself to any theme other than another good old-fashioned revenge story. It dabbles in social commentary on the “TikTok” generation, even employing one of the platform’s biggest stars Addison Rae. You’d be mistaken for thinking after such an impactful opening, we would be leaning into a slight on consumerism and our need for more stuff, but that too gets pushed to the wayside. Thanksgiving is all about revenge.
When watching a revenge flick, there is always the want for someone to cheer for. Who is going to make it out? Who will outwit the killer and come through unscathed? Thanksgiving had me rooting for the killer. The characters are some of the worst people society has to offer; there is a certain sense of relief as they pay the price for what they did on that fateful night 12 months ago. One actor in particular, who I won’t name, gave a performance I did not expect, and you could see the fun with their character. A completely different style to anything I have seen before and one to look out for.
The absolute joy throughout is the sense of foreboding brought on by each skilfully shot scene, adding tension to the moments; you know what’s coming but thankfully, you don’t always know where from. Thanksgiving may be another slasher movie, but Eli Roth continues to master his craft and bring audiences to the edge of their seats, getting you ready for a scream, a twist of the stomach or a laugh, sometimes all three together. Thankfully, it is well aware of the movie it is and doesn’t try to overstay its welcome.
Thanksgiving is in theaters now.
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