Published On: Fri, Nov 17th, 2023

Thanksgiving review: Eli Roth’s slasher is stuffed with fun | Films | Entertainment

If you’ve watched Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 double feature Grindhouse then you may have a sense of déjà vu about this movie, as the premise was one of the fake trailers that featured in that movie. 

Created by director Eli Roth, who is known for films that have been described as “torture porn”, such as Hostel and The Green Inferno, he began plans for a feature-length adaptation almost immediately.

Finally, sixteen years later and just in time for the holiday, Thanksgiving gets the full slasher horror treatment.

Unlike many of the movies in this genre (which more often than not feature a cast of barely knowns and up-and-comers) this has a pretty stellar line-up, including former Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey, Suits star Rick Hoffman and bona fide movie star Gina Gershon, who has appeared in films such as Cocktail and Face/Off.

It’s not a spoiler to say that the film takes place around the Thanksgiving holiday. A year after a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy a mysterious figure going by the moniker Jack Carver stalks the streets of Plymouth, Massachusetts, taking revenge on those who were involved.

It’s a simple premise and similar to what we’ve seen before – but Roth’s dedication to a more classical filmmaking style gives this a far more grounded feel than your usual slasher flick.

Famed for his gruesome death scenes this does indeed feature some creative and stomach-churning kills by the protagonist. As a fan of his work, I felt they were less gory and are somewhat tame compared to his usual standards. That said there are still plenty of “eeewwwww!” moments.

However, the most shocking scene comes courtesy of the opening as rabid shoppers scramble to be the first inside the store for an early Black Friday sale. Desperate to get their hands on a free waffle iron absolute carnage ensues which sets the events of the movie in motion.

Roth completely captures the feral nature of humans in this situation. It’s the same animalistic trait you see in football riots or road rage incidents. Or, indeed, in real Black Friday scrambles (Google real-life footage to see it… it is mind-blowing). The fervour absolutely shows people at their worst.

As such, it is hard to feel sympathy for any of the victims of Carver. They are all truly awful.

While there are plenty of red herrings thrown in to keep viewers on their toes ultimately, I found this a tad predictable and figured out the killer’s identity early on. That said, I am a fan of the genre, so I know what to look for.

However, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. If you don’t like slasher movies this won’t convert you. But if you like your turkey dinner with a side of terror then you will love this.

Yes, Thanksgiving is cheesy and gory and full of character stereotypes, but it’s also beautifully shot, creative and has just enough heart to keep you engaged. Unlike previous Roth outings, this is unlikely to become a “cult classic” but it could well become an annual Thanksgiving “must-watch”.

Thanksgiving is in cinemas now.

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