No, this is not a happy Thanksgiving family film. Can anyone remember that infamous fake trailer by Eli Roth that was shown before the double-feature Grindhouse with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez? The small segment is still watched annually by my chums and me every Turkey Day. Can you believe it’s been 15 years since the false ad first aired and we now have this? Thanksgiving has become a movie directed by Hostel and Cabin Fever acclaimed director as well as featured actor in both small and big screen including Inglourious Basterds, The Idol among others.

It’s too bad his latest project does not feature Roth (he is fun to watch), but don’t think for one second that there aren’t any other great performances in Thanksgiving. Such notable ones include Patrick Dempsey, recently named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive who gives a fantastic performance which really stands out in Roth’s new B-movie that will surely pack the theaters this season.

For Roth’s tale Dempsey uses his natural New England accent in which it takes place in Plymouth Massachusetts – although filmed on location in Canada. Interestingly, the film begins after dinner on Thanksgiving so the build-up to Black Friday is intense. Are you aware of what happens on the next day of discounted shopping? This comes as no surprise if you live in America; therefore, it is comical to see angry “Massholes” (Roth) waiting outside of a local Rite Mart Department Store until twelve o’clock strikes. Not everyone waits silently. Some may say that Roth employs certain stereotypes about New England humorously but soon violence begins – everything becomes very serious and dreadful.

Afterwards Sheriff Newlon fires his weapon within the store while protecting his town resulting into a title card many might recall from the faux trailer made in 2007. After this point, Roth mixes holiday-themed slasher with dark comedy into one odd murder mystery full of his own signature of violence. Remember when the kids bashed in the bad guys’ heads literally in Hostel? Well let’s just say that violence in Roth’s next flick is on par if not bloodier.

And for those who know every word of the fake trailer by heart, you’ll be pleased to find out that this feature adaptation introduces some incredibly violent scenes. Roth really went all out here with his B-movie style approach. Dempsey does great work, as does Rick Hoffman who plays a department store owner trying to make sense of it all, but the younger actors are not exactly award-worthy. But that’s all right; we didn’t need them to be for something like this.

The sole purpose of the 2007 Grindhouse movie was to remind us of those notorious exploitation films from the seventies. On this note, is Roth not only doing that but also drawing inspiration from late ‘80s and early ‘90s classic slashers for a thrilling effect like in Thanksgiving (2023)? The theater where you will witness Thanksgiving will undoubtedly become boisterous during and shortly after the frightening opening sequence takes place setting the stage for dramatic events which shake up the town exactly one year later. Ironically enough, “the killer” is not actually responsible for this introductory Black Friday chaos leading to some characters’ shocking deaths in part A year later.
However, next Christmas may find someone looking for blood or not? Revenge? Or maybe just a need to see more people die around here? But we’ll see.

By speaking of the 70s we mean Jaws vibes with our department store becoming Amity Beach. As a shop owner, Hoffman wants to keep it open despite what happened last year; something that leads to mixed feelings among Plymouth residents primarily when some main players start dying off courtesy of an actual serial killer as opposed to an unfortunate trampling accident like last year though. The notorious vigilante from V for Vendetta was dressed by none other than John Carver himself and looks a bit like our pilgrim killer.

“Return home for the holidays…in a bodybag!” is just one of many corny taglines delivered by Roth’s gravel-voiced narrator in his original fake trailer. There are also plenty of such scares in this film adaptation together with lines such as “there will be no leftovers” coming out of the mouth of our killer while he/she hunts down victims through most scenes. It’s kind of both homage slasher cinema and being very much in touch with contemporary times: almost everything gets recorded now and even Thanksgiving Killer seems to be one step ahead with Gen Z hobbies like live-streaming … their own murders. As Roth allows us to follow a group of teenagers led by Jessica (Nell Verlaque), who are attempting to solve last year’s Black Friday incident; he incorporates false trails, as any good slasher movie maker might do, including Scream director Wes Craven – RIP.

But like all good slashers, Roth has left an opening for a sequel that many would definitely be interested in. This first production descends upon us into a tortured town without delay in various aspects. Although there were some scenes that seemed to drag on too long unnecessarily, they can be forgiven due to the gore-drenched jumpscares which occupy the remainder of the picture. Is it already a classic especially if you love holiday movies like Die Hard and Violent Night? It could be.

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