Directed by Eli Roth 

Written by Jeff Rendell, Eli Roth 

Starring: Nell Verlaque, Gabriel Davenport, Patrick Dempsey, Jalen Thomas Brooks

Thanksgiving marks the third film to be born out of the fake trailers from Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse (2007) collaboration. Eli Roth manages to turn that faux trailer into a full length era appropriate slasher film, expanding on many of those captivating images.

A year after a riot at a Black Friday sale causes multiple deaths, a number of people involved in the incident find themselves hunted by a killer dressed as a pilgrim. Wearing the mask of first governor John Carver, this psychopath targets Jessica (Nell Verlaque) and her friends for their part in triggering the incident.

Thanksgiving mimics the late seventies and early eighties slasher flicks a bit too well. The kills are effective and visceral, there’s a couple of great sequences, but the plot is barely stitched together. Sure there’s a little satire and meta-commentary ala Scream, but not enough to inject the archetypal characters with life. Unfortunately, as a whole Thanksgiving comes across a little dull in any place where there’s no offal splattered across the screen.

The main cast is no help in this regard, being either actively annoying or completely bland. Nell Verlaque makes a rather typical final girl, with very little to distinguish her from the crowd. However there’s a few minor characters, only tentatively linked to the plot, that do add a bit of colour and interest to small town life, otherwise we’d purely barrack for Carver.

In part this is because, when there is some crimson gore sprayed about the scene, Thanksgiving comes to life. The “kills” are absurdly gory, and often wryly amusing. There’s horror references aplenty, from Halloween to Killer Clowns from Outer Space. Finally Roth manages his set pieces with flare. The lead-in showing the Black Friday massacre sets a high bar for the film. Thanksgiving might never better that opening, but it does well in raising expectations. 

Thanksgiving is a loving homage to great slasher films, but it’s a little less confident when it is not standing on the shoulders of giants (probably wearing hockey masks). If you are a fan of the genre then you’ll definitely want seconds.

DAVID O’CONNELL 

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