By JOHN CARTER JR
Tiger Media Network
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and with it special moments we can share with our family. The holiday season fills us with joy as we partake in our annual autumnal activities. Watching the parade, pigging out with families, maybe setting up a Christmas tree, and, of course, the subsequent Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping. However, what happens when those normal annual traditions go wrong? When a simple Black Friday sale turns into a gruesome instance of mob mentality, when people are trampled for a simple waffle iron, and when the following Thanksgiving, a killer takes revenge on those who are more concerned with buying than killing. This is Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving (2023).”
Many holidays have had standout slasher or horror film entries to accompany them. The
“Leprechaun” series for St Patrick’s Day, the “Halloween” series for Halloween, “Black Christmas” for Christmas, “My Bloody Valentine” For Valentine’s Day, and so on. For the longest time, Thanksgiving seemed to have been neglected in having a true standout contender for its own slasher film. However, this year, Eli Roth delivered one of the best slashers in recent memory, which seems to have been based on a fake movie trailer he made for Rodriguez and Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” film from 2007. Starring in the film are Scream 3’s Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, and Gina Gershon. What makes this film stand out among recent slashers is not only how it hones in on the basics of what makes a good slasher flick but also how it keeps a good balance of legitimate horror and legitimate camp. The film sticks to its Thanksgiving theme and fleshes out its main villain. While I do have a few nitpicks about the film these criticisms never overwhelm me or make the film feel underwhelming.
Let’s first examine the problems that I have with this film. Out of about two problems, the first one seems to be the most problematic for me, given the amount of surviving characters by the end of the film. There are a few moments where the main roster of protagonists, whether survivors or not, don’t feel as fleshed out in terms of being legitimate high school students, not even in the way that the cast of the original “Scream” didn’t feel like high school students but in a way that makes you feel a little bit distanced from them. It could be argued that the reason this feeling occurs while watching most of these characters is because some of them have less than favorable personalities, which might affect your interpretation of whether the acting or scripting was at fault. Actually, it’s just simply who the characters are. However, this issue isn’t too persistent enough or clearly an issue enough to bring the movie down much. The same problem makes itself apparent in the film with the Killer who, while being menacing and has a lot of potential, feels like their personality after being unmasked could be explored more. However, the actor that plays the Killer is the standout for the film and makes you want more from them in terms of moments unmasked.
The best components of this movie are how they adhere to a classic slasher formula that hasn’t been in a while. The film has excellent kill scenes and creative means in which the killer gets the job done. The movie is a very camp slasher film with moments that somehow work, like the main antagonist feeding the cat of one of their victims right after doing the act. The film stays on theme and so does the killer with their catchphrases, motivations, and motifs. What is really cool about this film is there are a lot of moments that set up the final reveal, the twists and turns are there, of course, but also what I would call very well-laid clues as to determine the identity of the Killer are also included.
Finally, what makes this film even more memorable is that multiple moments throughout the film do not shy away from making both the Killer and the inhabitants of Plymouth, the town the film is set in, feel unlikable or straight-up nasty people in their own right. This places well with the villain’s motivations of exacting revenge on, in their minds and in the minds of others, greedy, horrible people.
“Thanksgiving (2023)” by Eli Roth is a new holiday slasher favorite. it is among the films I could find myself going back to annually to enjoy during the holiday season. Every holiday needs a slasher film and this one certainly is up to the challenge of being Thanksgiving’s entry. Some of the cast members are real standouts here and if this film were ever to get a sequel, I would hope to see more from the surviving cast in the future. The film stays on theme and incorporates the Black Friday trampling with a heap of personal greed and therefore, developes its own personal identity. With high stakes, a well-set-up mystery, and a memorable villain, this film proves itself as a legitimate horror experience. The film ate, it left no crumbs, and there will be no leftovers.