“There will be no leftovers.”
Director/Writer: Eli Roth / Writer: Jeff Rendell / Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Milo Manheim, Addison Rae, Tomaso Sanelli, Gabriel Davenport, Jenna Warren, Karen Cliche, Joe Delfin, Amanda Barker, Tim Dillon.
Body Count: 12
Being from a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s a little alien to me, pieced together from Saved by the Bell holiday specials, Friends episodes, tales of brawling families and, finally, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving slasher feature, which comes a whopping sixteen years after the mock trailer he created for Grindhouse (and which, let’s be honest, was the best thing about that project).
Thanksgiving has been a curiously overlooked public holiday in the slasher cannon, with, by my count, only 1980’s Home Sweet Home and 83’s Blood Rage making any ado about it – though I remember someone telling me about a film called ‘Thankskilling’, but maybe that was bullshit.
Roth has always been a bit hit and miss for me, but he shines here, revelling in the nostalgic echoes of early 80s every-holiday-is-a-kill-fest template, and having a bloody good time with it. Emphasis on bloody. He described the movie as a 2023 reboot of what that old trailer would’ve been for, allowing freedom to explore more contemporary themes. Namely: Black Friday.
Shit a brick and fuck me with it, is the scene that starts this movie accurate? Greedy small town store owner Thomas Wright (the always fun Hoffman) decides to open his joint for the Black Friday madness on Thanksgiving, rather than at midnight, and give away a free waffle iron to the first 100 customers. Crowds gather and get impatient: pushing, shoving, swearing.
When Wright’s daughter Jessica lets five of her friends in through the employee entrance and a couple of them mock those waiting from inside the store, a crush ensues, resulting in shattered glass as hordes of selfish lunatics flood in. Three people die in the madness, including store manager Mitch’s wife (a Gina Gershon cameo).
One year later (of course), Jessica’s boyfriend Bobby, whose pitching career was ruined by an injury sustained in the carnage, returns after a year ghosting the others, but she’s now going out with the slightly sketchy Ryan (My Bloody Valentine love triangle sighted off the bow) and the six friends involved begin to receive vaguely threatening Insta messages from ‘John Carver’, the town’s Pilgrim figurehead, which coincide with locals who were involved in the riot being offed by an axe-swinging wacko in a mass-produced John Carver mask.
While Jess worries, local Sheriff (Dempsey) leads the charge to locate the killer, and the classless idiots who trampled over dying people for reduced housewares continue to get attacked with electric knives, table top power saws and, in the most ‘ouch’ moment from the concept trailer, a cheerleader on a trampoline bounces down on to a blade that pierces through beneath her.
Elsewhere, some good chase scenes play out that bring back sweet memories of Prom Night, one of which wrings a great deal of tension in its simplicity, and things culminate in a Happy Birthday to Me-recalling Thanksgiving dinner, with the surviving targets confronted by their sins, and ‘dinner’ is served.
Roth crams a lot into Thanksgiving, recreating almost all of the scenes from his trailer, dropping some subtle clues as to the killer’s identity here and there, and offing people in gruesome ways: One poor uninvolved schmuck is skewered through the head by a parade float, a scene which also recalls Sarah Michelle Gellar seeing the Fisherman everywhere in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Just a fun slasher movie from start to finish (although the tagline more of a mission statement than a fact).
Blurbs-of-interest: Canadian mini-icon Lynne Griffin appears as Grandma in the first scene, having been in the original Black Christmas and also Curtains back in the day. Patrick Dempsey was in Scream 3.