HOLLYWOOD—This was perhaps one of the top 5 flicks I was looking forward to in 2023, and gosh did it disappoint me, after nearly 16 years in the making. I am referring to Eli Roth’s fake trailer from the 2007 “Death Proof” oddly titled “Thanksgiving.” The trailer was so genius, so original, the thought of a horror film centered around one of the most family friendly holidays of all holidays tell me I’m dreaming right?
Well, you would be wrong. You already have horror films for every other holiday, so why not tackle Turkey Day. However, there is a problem, the trailer which hinted on everything about great horror individuals enjoy, the nostalgia, the nods to the clever humor, the elusive characters, a killer cloaked in a one of a kind mask, and they have a unique weapon of choice. “Thanksgiving” is 80s horror at its worst because it gives you everything you ultimately hate about the 80s as it pertains to the decade that quite literally destroyed the genre.
I will admit I do think there are some holidays that are sacred when it comes to horror. I feel like Thanksgiving is absolutely off limits because you don’t want to create horror that frightens children especially Santa Claus which I think is just bad taste. Easter is another that I think is off limits and I would add Thanksgiving to the list after seeing this movie.
“Thanksgiving” isn’t a horrid movie it just does everything you don’t want a horror movie to do. A character that has a direct path to escape, but turns around to do something that ultimately gets them killed. Characters that literally walk right into a death trap despite realizing it’s a trap, and then you have the one thing that I hate about horror: excessive gore. Director Eli Roth does too much here, just way too much. I mean using a table saw to splice someone open is gross, but cooking someone alive in the oven like a turkey and then cutting off a piece of meat for another character to eat.
Sorry that is where I have to draw the line. The story is weakly crafted because it centers on a Black Friday sale at Right Mart (a play on Walmart) that goes terribly wrong when a crowd loses their minds over free waffle irons. It does have a bit of social commentary about consumerism and the drive of businesses to make money at all costs, so much to the point that workers have to work, when they should be enjoying the holiday with family and friends.
A group of teenagers led by Jessica (Nell Verlaque) get inside the store ahead of everyone else thanks to her father, Thomas Wright portrayed by “Suits” alum Rick Hoffman who just happens to own the store. It leads to a stampede where one character is literally trampled to death, another is stabbed by broken glass, another has their neck snapped with a cart in addition, to a piece of the scalp removed. Yeah, the gore factor was upped in this flick in a major way. If you thought “Friday the 13th” was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
You have People’s Sexist Men Alive for 2023, Patrick Dempsey portraying Sheriff Eric Newlon of the great town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. This is the place where the first Thanksgiving was held and tribute is paid to the iconic John Carver, who just happens to be the face that our killer uses to torture his victims, as all those connected to that Black Friday bloodbath are expected to be at his or her Thanksgiving table.
The commentary of the movie was fun, and makes you wonder what people in real life were losing their minds over getting items at a crazy discount on Black Friday, but thank God that trend has changed, as retailers started sales much earlier and you can order online and pick up in store.
The film gives us a nice introduction to our crop of victims, but the problem is as spectator they are so deftly developed you don’t care when they die. You really don’t and it harkens back to the golden days of people filling a stereotype of the genre, the jock, the cheerleader, the popular girl, the outcast, the boyfriend, the token black guy, the authority figure and the clueless parents. Even the addition of social media star Addison Rae doesn’t help the plotline.
Roth had the potential to make “Thanksgiving” into something iconic, and it just regurgitates everything that is wrong with horror to begin with: relying on clichés that have become old and tired.