If your favorite style of horror is all about the messy, gory kills, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving movie is for you. But, if you’re more like me and are all about the slasher psychology, the whodunnit with some interesting twists and turns along the way, the movie is…also for you, actually. Set in Plymouth Massachusetts and featuring everything from a Black Friday mob scene that will have you turning away in — well…horror — to some clear nods to classic horror inspiration, this one has the potential to be an annual tradition for the scary movie lovers in your life.
Is it a bit over indulgent in some places? Sure. But isn’t that kind of the whole point, both in terms of what Americans are encouraged to do at this time of year and in terms of the movie’s sometimes heavy-handed indictment of the very same? Our answer is a resounding yes. This film’s a success at what it intends to be. To continue with the food metaphors: No, it’s not gourmet material. But we weren’t looking for that, just something savory. And by the time we finished watching the Thanksgiving movie, we were well and truly stuffed — just like we’re told we should be after our family meals. Maybe we could’ve done without this or that dish along the way. But hey! We gave everything a taste.
Push these to the side of your plates & enjoy the rest
Let’s get the bad out of the way.
There are definitely some moments where the movie seems to drag, especially in the very beginning. And there are some lines of dialogue that have us like “ok but do these youths really talk like this now. If so, dear God, why.” Granted, many of our favorite teen slashers have that element of absurdity for effect, but we can’t completely tell if that was the goal here or not. Tying those first two gripes together, there’s one character in particular whose screen time and characterization seem a bit…much. Adding to the frustration with that character, this guy’s irritating AF most of the time, high-key gives “danger” vibes given his proximity to the kids…yet has a weirdly touching moment at one point, as well. It just doesn’t make sense, but we’re glad he gives our Final Girl what he gives her. And that’s all we’ll say about that.
Another point of contention is also a point of strength: As we alluded to above, we’re not necessarily into the whole gore gluttony for gore’s sake thing that has become popularized within the genre. And Thanksgiving most certainly does feature hefty helpings of overkill, internal organs, ripped off skin, buckets of faux blood — you name it. Because of this, there are a few places where it’s like “ok. Get on with it. We get it. The killer likes to make a mess,” which we couldn’t tell if that was just personal bias coming in or…actually too much to the point of taking us out of the action completely. Even so, we found ourselves being surprised by how much all that still worked for us, as a general rule. And that’s mostly down to a combination of creativity in the kills, execution, and a very clear “fuck capitalism” message.
We’d Like Seconds of These Thanksgiving Movie Entrees
Performance-wise, Nell Verlaque easily has the most work to do and does a damned fine job with it. Her character, Jess, is central to the story, and — spoiler here — she is a worthy, resourceful Final Girl. One of Thanksgiving‘s best scenes, in terms of slasher psychology, involves Jess doing everything she can to hide and outsmart the killer while being stalked. And it simply works. Arguably, though, her best moment comes during the big reveal — as it should. Not only does Jess get to throw one of the killer’s lines back at him…but she does it in a way even our all-time favorites, Sid and Gale, would be proud of.
Also of note: Milo Manheim. There’s a very natural, believable ease to the way he sinks into his character. In a way, he somehow manages to keep a lot of the more ridiculous scenes with “the youths,” as we’ll call the central teen group, grounded. (And, therefore, watchable.) Patrick Dempsey also does a fantastic job, which probably surprises no one. But that’s not to say that there aren’t any surprises for his character.
…and, since we can’t hold it in any longer: If you go see this holiday horror, get ready to get Litt Up. As Suitors, we were always going to say this, but yes, we absolutely love what Rick Hoffman does in this movie. The big, big banquet requires him to do some major over-acting for effect, and he utterly and completely kills it.
In terms of slasher bits: The oven scene from one of the trailers has a fun build up. Additionally, there’s a not-insignificant helping of other kills that legitimately make use of items from Thanksgiving dinner in ways that will make you never see them the same way again. To be a film nerd for a moment, some of the camera angles, areas of focus, and lighting are all genuinely perfect for the genre. And let’s just say if any part of the the movie feels slow, consider it the usual agony of waiting around for Thanksgiving dinner — watching the more annoying parts of the parade and all. Because when this movie gets to its ultimate payoff…wow. Yes. The Thanksgiving feast features some truly remarkable moments from all involved — cast and crew alike.
Just a Few More Snacks
- That first, perfect shot with the tilted look and heavy-breathing effects at the front door…horror classic.
- “It was like Waffle House level cringe. It was bad.” I know this girl isn’t talking shit about the best place to go after a concert for some cheap, tasty chocolate chip waffles. Also, what does some child in Plymouth, Mass know about a WaHo anyway?
- Did not expect a massacre on that level for Black Friday. Pleasantly surprised, especially with all the detail work of folks still needing to get those deals when they’re dying.
- The detail work in this movie is fantastic in general, actually. Handprints, footprints, etc. Excellent choices on when to use silence and slow things down, too.
- Genius use of modern technology throughout, and while not geniuses themselves, these kids are still definitely much less irritatingly foolish.
- Not Rick Hoffman yelling at someone named Stan on the phone. Dr. Lipschitz, that you???
- Sweet little Michael Myers moment through that diner window.
- The killer is anti-capitalist, made sure the kitty had something to eat, and even gave kitty scritches. Did no wrong!
- Also, was the cat’s name Dewey, or was I hearing things?
- “The nicest guys are the most psycho. They’re just better at hiding it.”
- The youths don’t know who Black Sabbath is, and you expect me to care if the guy in the John Carver mask gets them or not? SMDH.
- The whole “Scuba” thing had me like WTF, but at least 1) he was smart enough to be like “nah, we’re getting weapons.” And 2) Gabriel Davenport has that gutting “what do I do” moment. Talk about freezing because of trauma.
- Not a single ballerina would wear her shoes out on the street like that. Villain origin story for their instructors, actually, if they did. (Where’s the slasher film for that?)
- “No one appreciates subtlety anymore. To go viral, you really have to hit people over the head.” Well, mission accomplished there. Oof.
- Sheriff: “I’ll be right back.” Me, having seen every entry in the Scream franchise many times: You won’t be.
- …oh. Someone else used that line once, though…oh. That was on purpose, wasn’t it?
- Stunning from our Final Girl when she has that moment of recognition.
- “What are you thankful for?” “The service in here…You should see the look on YOUR face.” Icon.
- Anyone else thinking “these days, you gotta have a sequel” or…?
Thanksgiving is now playing in theaters nationwide.