For a movie that started off as a fake trailer from Grindhouse in 2007, Thanksgiving exceeds all expectations. The movie sheds the skin of that fake trailer. Instead of looking like a dingy, grody 70s horror flick, this one adds a coat of shine and some 90s slasher/mystery vibes. For fans of those whodunit slashers, Eli Roth taps into what made those types of films so popular and brings the genre into the modern era.

Here’s a synopsis for those who don’t know about Thanksgiving.

After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts – the birthplace of the infamous holiday.

From the start, Thanksgiving is mean. By mean, it doesn’t pull any punches in showing off how absolutely insane the “tradition” of Black Friday is. People line up to get deals on appliances and whatever else. Store workers deal with angry, cold crowds of people. What can go wrong, does go wrong, in an absolutely wild fashion. Eli Roth is known for his bloodshed and violence, and while it’s not at the Hostel level, it’s more cartoonish and played off for laughs than terror.

As the movie goes on, the majority of the violence and set pieces are played off like that. For those out there looking for a straight-up slasher movie or just something that will terrify you, I’m not sure what else you were expecting out of a film where someone dresses up as John Carver and kills people.

How Sharp Is Thanksgiving? Are The Performances Good?

Outside of an accent from Patrick Dempsey, that I couldn’t quite place, Thanksgiving has some pretty fine performances. They’re not going to change the way you think about horror movies, or give you a character that you’ll be thinking about after the movie is over, but the majority of the teenage/young adult cast does their roles admirably. Thanksgiving stars Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hoffman, Gina Gershon, Milo Manheim, Addison Rae, Nell Velaque, and Karen Cliche.

Nell Verlaque plays Jessica, who is the daughter of the owner of RightMart (Hoffman). During the horrific Black Friday riot, she lets her friends in the store early, and that is the catalyst for the entire riot. His inability to hire more security and also staying open on Thanksgiving, is what sets off our killer. Slowly, she and her friends and people involved with the riot are targeted by John Carver.

The stories of the adults and teens converge and all eventually merge into one line. The mistakes of the adults come back to haunt them. While the teens addiction to social media, their phones, and “going viral” are also central to Carver’s motivations. The commentary here, is a bit on the nose, but it’s played off as ludicrous. That’s really what sets Thanksgiving apart from other holiday horror flicks. This one embraces Thanksgiving and the imagery. Someone is walking around killing people with table instruments and axes. A guy in a turkey suit is brutally murdered at a parade. Thanksgiving goes balls to the wall, and it’s so much better for it.

Thanksgiving takes some brutal kills, a sharp script, and some truly biting commentary, and somehow jams it all together into a functional holiday horror movie. Eli Roth adds his distinct style (plenty of wince-inducing kills) and makes a throwback horror flim that feels like it belongs in the 90s, but updates that formula for today’s audiences. The twist/mystery doesn’t unravel too fast and it’s a nice bit of storytelling. I was shocked at who the killer actually was through it all. If you love red herrings, bloodshed, and some hilarious kills, Thanksgiving is for you.

The best part about Thanksgiving is that it’s simple. The movie doesn’t have any frills. We’re not going here to break the paradigm of the genre. Scream already did that. Instead of that, you get an enjoyable holiday slasher. The action and performances are great, and this is a lean, mean, well-shot horror flick.

So, if you want to see Thanksgiving, it releases in theaters on November 17th, 2023.

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