2007 saw the Tarantino / Rodriquez double bill Grindhouse which had several director shoot faux trailers of films that would never be. Except some did come to fruition including ‘Machete’ a Danny Trejo starrer that was so successful it had sequels. The spate of trailers included Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving and it’s a return to his horror feature film roots which he has been away from for ten years since 2013’s The Green Inferno.
Located in Plymouth, Massachusetts the annual Thanksgiving sees it coincide with the Black Friday sales at Right Mart whose CEO is more concerned with profits and having hired only two security guards to keep back a baying mob of feral undesirables desperate for a bargain basement waffle iron. It all goes South when the crowd break burst through the crash barriers and crash through the plate glass window doors into the store where all carnage breaks out as the crowds fight over the usual that is found in Black Friday sales. Its Jessica (Nell Verlaque), who unwillingly finds herself in the store with a group of friends who cowers in terror as Evan (Tomaso Sanelli) films it on his phone and uploads the murderous riot which soon goes viral. The death count finds the company denying any responsibility and ‘losing‘ the CCTV that might aid any possible civil action.
Leap forward a year later and life goes on in the town except there’s now a killer on the loose in the form of the appropriately named pilgrim John Carver whose face mask the killer wears as he goes about slaying those who were at fault for the Black Friday deaths and tops up the body count. So the store CEO, the security guard who fled from the scene, Evan who chose to film it all rather than help, along with many others are all on John Carvers Black Friday shopping list of kills whilst Sheriff Newlon (Patrick Dempsey) investigates and at the same time Gabby herself finds her friends coming to a grisly demise.
After the cannibal carnage of The Green Inferno that featured a truly stomach churning and all too realistic set piece writer-director Eli Roth has returned to a more cartoonishly violent horror film. That one character says, ‘No one appreciates subtlety anymore’ is suitably ironic for an Eli Roth film never one to be bothered by nuance and Thanksgiving is no different. Yes, the kills are gory but there is something gleefully daft about many of them.
As with many of his films there are flashes of inspiration – there’s a nice throwaway moment when a victim can’t activate their phone by facial recognition due to the injuries they have received at the hands of the killer. But this is firmly built around creative kills (there is one at a Thanksgiving March that wouldn’t be out of place in the Final Destination franchise) with all the victims obvious hate figures and wholly deserving of their grisly demise. And ultimately this is a whodunit in terms of the identity of the masked John Carver which in its reveal owes more to Scooby Doo than Agatha Christie as the film builds towards a Thanksgiving dinner with the sort of outlandish tasting menu that even Heston Blumenthal might draw the line.
Thanksgiving is something of a throwback to old school 1980’s slasher movies and there’s clearly an eye to a franchise here for which horror fans may well give thanks.
Here’s the Thanksgiving trailer……..