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‘Thanksgiving’ (Blu-ray review)


Holiday-themed horror is nothing new, and some of the early entries in the sub genre such as the original versions of Black Christmas, Halloween and My Bloody Valentine have long since cemented their status as icons of the genre, with fans gleefully revisiting them as an annual tradition.

Naturally, other holidays have also been given the horror treatment, albeit with varying results, as not all horror films are created equal.

The holiday of Thanksgiving was one such holiday that still left something to be desired, as it never truly took center stage in the horror films that happened to transpire across the November holiday.

Enter Eli Roth.

Back in 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse double feature project failed financially, as only genre connoisseurs seemed to latch onto the concept, which also a saw a handful of faux grindhouse trailers by other genre filmmakers thrown in between the two features.

The most popular of these fake trailers was Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, which emulated the shlocky slashers of the 1980s, and many expressed their hunger for Roth making good on the trailer and putting together a full length gore fest.

In 2022, 15 years after it was featured in Grindhouse, Roth announced that his short would finally be realized as a feature-length horror film, which was set to be served up for audiences just in time for Thanksgiving 2023.

However, was there really enough meat on the bones of a couple of minutes of faux trailer to make a satisfying, feature-length feast of holiday horror?

Thankfully, it turns out the full vision of that fake trailer is as lovingly prepared as a home cooked meal, and unlike the main star of the meal associated with the holiday, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving is no turkey.

Offering a stalk-and-slash approach slathered with delightfully gross gore, sly social commentary and plenty of New England accents and stereotypes, Roth carves out a slice of horror that speaks to his strengths as a filmmaker, resulting in the film being a fun ride that oozes with being made by someone who sincerely loves the genre and does not take themselves too seriously.

Indeed, what works so well about Thanksgiving is that awareness of where it comes from in terms of the onslaught of slasher horrors of the 1980s that tried to capitalize on any gimmick it possible could, and Thanksgiving pays homage to this lineage with a charming smirk.

This meta approach is of course nothing new, as meta horror is one of the most popular flavors of contemporary horror, but Thanksgiving avoids the trap that many meta horrors fall into where they are so insistent on showing you how clever are that they end being tedious and unengaging for trying too hard.

Instead, the meta aspect is realized by Roth knowing the genre well and understanding how to utilize the tropes of 1980s slashers in a way that that is self-aware without being cynical.

This creates a vibe where the film remains sincere in spite of not taking itself too seriously, resulting in a film genre fans will enjoy because it is strikes a balance between being a love letter to genre while still being a good horror film in its own right, and more casual viewers will simply just have a good time because the film approaches its high concept premise with competence and sincerity.

Extras include commentary, featurettes, deleted, alternate & extended scenes, an EPK, outtakes, and clips of archival short films from director Roth and screenwriter Jeff Rendell.

Horror is an ever-evolving genre thanks to how it ties into current events and moods, and while the current trend of elevated horror has proven to be able to deliver some excellently crafted and deeply impactful films, sometimes you just want the meat-and-potatoes variety of horror that competently combines a simple narrative with creatively gross gore in a way that can only be described as cinematic comfort food for horror fans.

Existing somewhere at the intersection of the original My Bloody Valentine and Wes Craven’s Scream, Thanksgiving stands out as one of the best horrors of 2023 for its ability to make horror movies fun again without trying to hard, and while the tagline professes there will be no leftovers, there will hopefully be an equally delectable sequel.

Verdict: 8 out of 10.



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