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Review: ‘Thanksgiving’ will not leave you hungry for more

Courtesy Sony Pictures

By Riya Misra and Hamza Saeed     11/28/23 11:37pm

Review: ★★★★

Eli Roth’s new holiday slasher “Thanksgiving” boasts a most appropriate tagline: “This year, there will be no leftovers.” And even if there were, after sitting through the movie, you probably will not have the appetite for them.

The film was born from a 2007 faux horror movie trailer, created for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s “Grindhouse,” a true tribute to exploitation film. The 2023 full-length rendition is an homage to the same gory, sleazy slasher aesthetics of decades past, replicating some truly disturbing scenes with trampolines, decapitated turkeys and cranberry sauce-glazed toes. Yeah, it gets weird.

“Thanksgiving” centers around the brutal actions of a serial killer that seeks to gain revenge on the town of Plymouth, Mass., as the holiday season approaches. The killer dresses up as John Carver, a Mayflower Pilgrim and the first governor of Plymouth County, and gets to, well, carving people.

Let’s talk about the fright factor first. Simply put, it gobbled. The movie opens with a Black Friday rush at a local retailer, resulting in the brutal massacre of several townsfolk caught in a human stampede as they fight for the limited supply of discounted waffle irons. Gore-wise, it really only gets worse from there. The breathtaking work of Academy Award winning makeup artist Adrien Morot is apparent. At one point, Riya’s hands were glued to her face in horror. Hamza, obviously the more lionhearted of the two, chose to hide behind his notebook (to take notes, obviously).

“Do you think she’s dead?” Riya asked during a scene in which a victim is bisected at the waist. 

“The pre-med in me wants to say yes,” Hamza responded.

Roth did make several questionable creative decisions while adapting the faux trailer premise into a full-length film. In a recent interview, Roth told The New York Times that the best part of directing a fake trailer is that, “You get to do the best parts of the movie and nothing has to make sense.” Although Roth tries to infuse some threads of a logical plot in the adapted version, this sentiment holds true — it’s a little half-baked. 

The good news is that no one watches horror movies for the plot — or at least we hope not, because, yikes, there is not much here. The killer’s motivations are ludicrous (although, props to Riya for correctly guessing them in the first few minutes of the film) and seemingly important characters go forgotten. At one point we speculated that “Thanksgiving” was an elaborate social commentary on mass consumerism and ethical consumption under capitalism. We soon realized that’s probably giving the film too much credit. 

The beauty of the slasher genre, though, is that it doesn’t require spectacular acting or sophisticated plot development. All it needs is some good old fashioned blood and guts, and Roth won’t leave you disappointed there.

Sure enough, the acting probably won’t be Oscar-contending anytime soon. Sheriff Newton, played by Sexiest Man Alive Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey, got us McSteamy, but the teen actors, featuring TikTok star Addison Rae, deliver a performance that is on the razor’s edge of parody. As harsh as it may sound, their characters would fit right into a Scooby Doo movie, dialogue, voice and all. 

Roth, a Newton, Mass., native, pens a true love letter to Massholes: stony-faced teenagers, wicked bad Boston accents, name drops of towns like Methuen, muted chilly gray palettes, and truly uncanny obsessions with Pilgrims. Frankly, if someone were to ever get murdered at a Black Friday sale over a waffle iron, it would probably happen in Massachusetts. 

The outlandishness of this film cannot be understated. At one point, we were half expecting the serial killer to just be an actual turkey seeking revenge for his fallen brothers and sisters. Overall, this film most certainly brought joy to our holiday season. 

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