Thanksgiving Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by TriStar Pictures

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Directed by Eli Roth
Written by Jeff Rendell and Eli Roth
2023, 107 minutes, Rated R
Released on November 17th, 2023

Starring:
Patrick Dempsey as Sherriff Newlon
Rick Hoffman as Mr. Wright
Karen Cliché as Kathleen Wright
Gina Gershon as Mrs. Collins
Ty Olson as Mitch Collins
Nell Verlaque as Jessica Wright
Jalen Thomas Brooks as Bobby
Milo Manheim as Ryan
Gabriel Davenport as Scuba
Addison Rae as Gabby
Jenna Warren as Yulia
Tomaso Sanelli as Evan
Adam MacDonald as John Carver (voice)

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Review:

We’ve waited a damn long time. I know I have at least, and I wasn’t alone in my desire to see horror icon Eli Roth (Hostel, Green Inferno, Cabin Fever) make his faux trailer from Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse into a full-on feature film. Sure, it took sixteen years…but here we are, just in time for the holiday season! What looked like a grainy, sleazy slice of grindhouse turkey back in 2007 is instead a bona fide ‘90s / early ‘00s slasher in its presentation and influences (while being firmly set in the present day of social media madness), and I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely glorious.

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The town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, takes the Thanksgiving holiday very seriously, and the residents take not only the holiday, but Black Friday very seriously as well. Jessica Wright (Nell Verlaque; The Marijuana Conspiracy) is the daughter of the owner of Right Mart, a Walmart-style chain store that’s gearing up for another big Black Friday shopping bonanza. Jessica and her friends stop by the store and incite a riot with their antics, unleashing a horrific tragedy that’s grotesque even by your usual, American Black Friday standards. Many lives are lost, and the town is scarred. A year later, the citizens of Plymouth are gearing up for the holiday again. This time, however, they will have to deal with John Carver (voice of Adam MacDonald; Pyewacket), a town-founder masked psycho who’s hell-bent on revenge against Jessica, her friends, and the key figures in the shopping slaughter.

Again, this is Eli Roth we’re talking about here, so you know the gore, horror acumen, and comedy are all going to be up to the highest standards. Along with Jeff Rendell, Roth has written one hell of a smart script that understands the slasher genre to its very core. It’s a clever blend of the banter and self-awareness of Scream (flavored with a heavy dose of social media relevancy), the framework and structural trappings of I Know What You Did Last Summer, and the big kill madness of Final Destination. Moreover, Eli Roth hasn’t lost any of his trademark black humor, and it’s the gravy on this perfectly fried turkey.

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Speaking of, the opening Black Friday sequence will be remembered for years to come! I can almost feel Jeffrey Reddick smiling from ear to ear at this one; the spirit of all those “Holy mother of actual fuck” opening scenes is alive and well in this one. The tone is instantly set, the gauntlet is thrown down, then you’re off to the races. All the standard slasher tricks are on display (P.O.V. camera work, background faces in the window, cutting back to the killer right behind you, etc.) in the many scrumptious kill scenes that follow, but it’s that opening bonanza of blood that lets you know you’re in for a new holiday classic. I especially appreciated the number of despicable characters whose deaths you cheer for that it generated to counterpoint the sympathetic characters. Very balanced.

The gore and SFX are, needless to say, utterly first-rate to the point of being comically over-the-top on a number of occasions. Every kill stands out in its own way; you won’t find any simple, lame stabbings here. All are memorable, and all will produce either laughter or a bit of in-the-mouth vomit (often simultaneously). I’ll not be the same after the human carving, I can tell you that much. Many of the highlights (like the beheading of the turkey) from the faux trailer are lovingly and faithfully recreated. What more could you ask, honestly?

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Excellent casting provides young, attractive leads who are relative newcomers, then mixes them in with highly recognizable faces like Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) and Gina Gershon (Showgirls) for a cast that feels so right. Everyone hits their notes perfectly, with standout style points going to Gabriel Davenport’s tough jock character Scuba and his just enough of a douchebag homeboy, Evan (played with dismissive smarm by Tomaso Sanelli).

Thanksgiving has long been the red-headed stepchild of the holiday slasher subgenre, always taking a backseat to the biggies like Halloween and Christmas. Thanks to the vision of Eli Roth, though, we now have a definitive Thanksgiving slasher that will almost surely spawn sequel after sequel. And I don’t know about you, but I do love me some leftovers.

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Grades:

Movie: 5 Star Rating Cover
Cover

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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