A new holiday-slasher favorite is served in giddily gory "Thanksgiving"

Thanksgiving (2023)

True-blue horror fans have only been waiting sixteen years to get a feature-length film of “Thanksgiving” from director Eli Roth. The idea of a madman stalking and slashing on the titular federal holiday first sprung from Roth and screenwriter Jeff Rendell as a grungy faux trailer for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 double-billed cinematic event “Grindhouse.” In less than three minutes, these filmmakers could convince any audience that their creation—the spitting image of a sleazy, exploitative holiday slasher flick—was actually made in the ‘70s or ‘80s. 

While the genuine article looks nothing like the original fake trailer, this instead goes the throwback route of a slick ‘90s-style whodunit slasher (a scene during the town’s Thanksgiving parade instantly reminds one of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”), and that’s just gravy. Mean-spirited but not without a clear sense of giddy fun, “Thanksgiving” is a pure slasherama that achieves exactly what it sets out to do. 

Thanksgiving is very much an institution in Plymouth, Massachusetts; we know it’s true because those are the exact words from Sheriff Newton (Patrick Dempsey, whose easily mockable Boston accent has to be in the joke). When a riot breaks out ahead of Black Friday in the local superstore Right Mart (get your waffle irons!), townspeople are trampled to death. One year after the grim tragedy, teenager Jessica (Nell Verlaque), the daughter of the wealthy store owner (Rick Hoffman) and trophy step-mom Kathleen (Karen Cliche), tries to move on with her life, even as her star quarterback boyfriend Bobby (Jalen Thomas Brooks) has ghosted her and their friend group. Before you can say, “that is not cranberry sauce,” the pilgrim-dressed killer in the historical John Carver mask is carving up those who rocked Plymouth last year and making sure there will be no leftovers.

A crowd-pleaser for all the sickos, “Thanksgiving” serves up a full plate of inspiredly gnarly kills (corncob holders, ouch), mostly likable characters, and a wicked sense of humor. Basting a victim and then sticking in a pop-up timer are twistedly hilarious touches, and have no worry, the trampoline kill from the fake trailer is still intact.  On its way to unveiling who’s behind that John Carver mask, too many characters are left unaccounted for just to rack up the pile of red herrings, and yet, the climax is completely satisfying. Read the full review at GuyAtTheMovies.com

Grade: B +

Sony Pictures released "Thanksgiving" (106 min.) in theaters on November 17, 2023.