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The Thanksgiving holiday may have passed, but director Eli Roth’s horror extravaganza THANKSGIVING will live on for years to come. That’s the hope for all of those involved, anyway.  

          Those who saw the tragically underappreciated GRINDHOUSE experiment in 2017 will already be familiar with this absurdly delightful title. THANKSGIVING originally appeared as one of the fake trailers that aired within the GRINDHOUSE experience. It was a take on the ridiculously gratuitous holiday-inspired schlock like APRIL FOOLS DAY and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. It contained the hilariously brilliant tagline, “This Thanksgiving, there will be no leftovers.” Six years later, Roth has taken the premise (and the tagline) and delivered a feature length film that surprises and entertains. 

As some residents of Plymouth, Massachusetts enjoy their Thanksgiving day meal, others gather in front of RightMart (because they absolutely could not use Walmart for this type of thing) to stake their claim on the black Friday deals. The waffle iron has never had a better price, and everyone NEEDS it. A couple of security guards try to keep the peace, but some of the locals are growing restless.

As a group of friends get ready to head to the movies, Evan (Tomaso Sanelli) remembers that he needs to swing by the store to pick up a new cell phone, because he has lost his. Luckily, they are with Jessica (Nell Verlaque) whose father Thomas (Rick Hoffman) owns the store. Along with Gabby (Addison Rae), Scuba (Gabriel Davenport), Bobby (Jalen Thomas Brooks), and Yulia (Jenna Warren) they will be able to just sneak in the back, grab a phone, and make their way to the movies. Once in the store, however, teenage shenanigans ensue, and the crowd explodes with fury when they see people in the store. Sheriff Eric Newton (Patrick Dempsey) does his best to quell the unrest, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. The lunatics push their way forward, the front door of the store cracks under the pressure, and carnage ensues.

One year later, a group of people still mourn the loss of life that occurred that day, but for the most part, life has gone back to normal. A viral video recorded by Evan still pops up on platforms from time to time, but for the most part, the town has moved on.   The RightMart will be open on Thanksgiving once again as if nothing really happened.   Unfortunately for anyone connected to the tragedy, they are about to find themselves in the crosshairs of a sadistic killer who begins grotesquely slaying all of those involved.  

Eli Roth has successfully taken a four-minute trailer and crafted a satisfying slasher flick that doesn’t break new ground in regard to plot or motive, but honors the genre and becomes a welcome entry in its morbid resume. The kills are over-the-top and brutal, the type that makes you squirm, gasp, and laugh in equal measure. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of his debut feature CABIN FEVER, and it was great to see him get back to his roots. Like CABIN, THANKSGIVING never takes itself too seriously and by serving up laughs along the way, allows the movie to feel like a tongue-in-cheek homage to the pioneering slashers that came before it. At the same time, it keeps the viewer guessing, proving throughout the production that not everyone is going to make it out alive. The question that becomes not only who will survive, but for those who don’t, how terrible will their demise be? Trust me when I say, every single one of them will make you happy you weren’t at the RightMart on Thanksgiving night.   

THANKSGIVING pokes fun at consumerism and greed while also utilizing modern technology to make its killer more menacing. Our group of friends are continuously tagged by the killer on social media as he begins to build his grotesque holiday table.  Featuring corpses and severed heads, he has a place setting for each one of them, and as the friends and community scramble to unmask the killer, paranoia and fear set in. Refusing to let a terrorist win, however, the RightMart will obviously be open for business on Thanksgiving, and it’s not like the town’s annual parade can be canceled!  Life must go on, no matter how bleak things get. Sure, an axe-wielding maniac is terrorizing the tiny community, but that can’t get in the way of capitalism and comfort.  How many folks will actually be left to go shopping remains to be seen, and if the killer has his way, there will be no leftovers.


RUN TIME: 1h 46min
GENRE: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
STARRING:  Patrick Dempsey, Ty Olsson, Gina Gershon
WRITERS:  Jeff Rendell, Eli Roth

Now playing in theaters.

Brian Miller