"Thanksgiving" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
The idea for "Thanksgiving" started out as a fake trailer made by Eli Roth to be shown during the Grindhouse Double Feature that was created by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Now, 16 years later, Roth has crafted a hilariously brilliant satirical slasher based off the iconic trailer, one that will both successfully entertain audiences and gross them out at the same time. It is obvious Roth has taken inspiration from many great filmmakers and horror icons, and it is perfectly transcribed here in this film, easily making it one of my favorite films from this year.
The film follows a group of teenagers - Jessica (Nell Verlaque), Evan (Tomaso Sanelli), Gabby (Addison Rae), Scuba (Gabriel Davenport), Yulia (Jenna Warren), Bobby (Jalen Thomas Brooks), and Ryan (Milo Manheim) - as they are all trying to recover from a freak accident that happened at Jessica's dad's (Rick Hoffman) store on Black Friday last year. They are worried about this year's shopping event, and begging with Jessica's dad and stepmother (Karen Cliche) to keep the store closed this year so another accident doesn't occur.
However, what they don't realize is that there is a crazed lunatic who is taking inspiration from the Black Friday accident. Donning a John Carver mask, he is going around the town of Plymouth, killing those who were involved, and the group of teens are next on his list. With the help of local sheriff Eric Newlon (Patrick Dempsey), they must find out who the killer is before they are all carved for Thanksgiving dinner.
Roth is a longtime collaborator with Tarantino, and you can feel some of the latter's inspiration oozing throughout this film. This is as close as we have ever gotten to Tarantino-esque slasher film, and even then, Roth is able to put his own spin on the story from a directorial standpoint. From beginning to end, this movie is absolutely hilarious in all the right ways, as well as being scary and thrilling as the John Carver killer is hunting down those involved in the Black Friday event. Roth hasn't always had the best luck when crafting horror films (should we take al look back at "Knock Knock"), but he just shows how he understands the art of combining humor with horror. Since slasher is already a funnier subgenre of horror, this perfectly plays into Roth's strengths.
The story as a whole is fantastic. I would have never thought for the film to be set-up and go the way it did, but it works so perfectly well that you can't even imagine it being crafted any other way. From the fantastic opening segment (that may very well be one of the best in slasher history) to the kills John Carver produces and the way the story flows so perfectly, it's such a wonderful watch. Not only does it excel on a filmmaking standpoint, but is just so damn entertaining for everyone watching.
The kills here are perfectly and elegantly on display, and just work so damn well. They're gory, they're graphic, they're shocking, and they will definitely make your mouth drop open when you watch them. Sure, there are some gnarly kills in acclaimed slashers like "Halloween" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street", but this takes it to the extremes and captures some fantastic kills that can easily be upheld as some of the best slasher kills of the past few years.
One major thing I thoroughly enjoyed about this film is the fact that all the characters have their own unique personality traits and can be distinguishable. There are many instances in slashers where the characters start to blend together, and they don't really have traits that can let the viewer feel attached to them. Each character in this film is so much different than the next, and they all work together wonderfully.
The entire cast here does an impeccable job. Verlaque plays an amazing final girl, and this is easily the movie that will shoot her to superstardom status. She's beautiful, strong, intelligent, and just everything you would want in a final girl. For the rest of the film group, they all give great, fun performances that compliment Verlaque perfectly. Manheim, Rae, Sanelli, Davenport, Warren, and Brooks are all great, young talented actors that I am guaranteed will have very long and fruitful acting careers in the future. And, of course, Dempsey, Hoffman, and the other adult actors do a wonderful job of crafting these performances and complimenting the story in very beneficial ways.
Like I said, this is easily one of my favorite films of the year, and honestly, it's one of my favorite modern slashers. This picture had everything I would ever want in a satirical, comedic slasher like this, and I had a huge smile on my face from beginning to end. I applaud Roth, the cast, and everyone involved for giving us this horror flick that is simply just made to be enjoyed and to have a good time with friends at the theaters.