Eli Roth serves up a solid Thanksgiving slasher that has similar bones to I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream but without the clever meta elements in Thanksgiving.
It celebrates the horror style of the late 1990s/early noughties with a narrative that follows a bunch of high-school kids who get caught up in a murder spree by a mysterious killer one year on from a Black Friday sale gone wrong. It’s not particularly original in its satire of festive consumerism and greed but it is hella gory.
Directed by Roth and co-written with his close friend Jeff Rendell, the film is adapted from their Grindhouse trailer where Rendell starred as an axe-wielding serial killer dressed as a masked pilgrim. It’s set in the modern day in Plymouth, Massachusetts where the first Thanksgiving took place and notes the brutal colonialism of Native Americans, but the film’s focus is firmly on stomach-churning, blood-soaked set pieces.
Nell Velarque stars as Jessica, the daughter of a local superstore owner (Rick Hoffman) where a Black Friday sale led to a riot and multiple grisly deaths. Someone is out for revenge and Jessica and her friends are marked as victims via cryptic Instagram style posts where a dinner table is laid out with their names on. The first two kills by the masked pilgrim are of fat people which is just obvious symbolism of America’s greed but eventually the film punches up with its targets while also commenting on class, privilege and uneven power dynamics.
The kills are imaginatively gross and vicious, using the backdrop of the Thanksgiving holiday, including the parade and turkey feast in a queasily effective way. The gore and slapstick work well together, however whenever the film leans into its comedy elements with silly one-liners it doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. Still, Roth has crafted a fun if somewhat forgettable slasher with Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is out in cinemas on 17 November