Star Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalem Thomas Brooks, Neil Verlaque, Gabriel Devenport
Director: Eli Roth
What’s Good: The movie presents a number of very gruesome and often funny murder scenes that will leave you laughing out loud.
What’s Bad: The characters are paper-thin, and the villain’s motivations are just as dumb.
Loo Break: The second act is too long for what it offers, so you can take a break before the insanity of the third act ensues.
Watch or Not?: Only if you are in the mood for gory kills; if not, the movie doesn’t have much to offer.
Available On: Theatrical release
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Eli Roth goes back to its horror roots with Thanksgiving, a film that tells the story of a group of teenagers after a disastrous Black Friday event that changed the face of the town forever. The teens must survive the violent rampage of a killer who seems to be taking revenge on the bad actors of that day. Roth mixes the gory skills from his early career with the grindhouse elements from the 1970s, the ones that inspired the film in the first place.
Thanksgiving Movie Review: Script Analysis
In 2007, the Grindhouse project arrived in cinemas. The project consisted of two films, one directed by Robert Rodriguez and the other directed by Quentin Tarantino. Those films were titled Planet Terror and Death Proof. Both films quickly became horror classics, and while the double feature experiment was a box office disaster, it proved that there was still a small audience out there interested in the grindhouse style of filmmaking. The project would reignite interest in the genre once more.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Grindhouse double feature presentation were the fake trailers presented before each of the two films. Tarantino and Rodriguez managed to gather a collection of directors to direct these fake trailers for movies that didn’t exist. Of course, in a self-fulfilled prophecy kind of way, some of those fake trailers, like Machete and Hobo with a Shotgun, ended up becoming proper films. Thanksgiving, which was one of those fake trailers, now becomes a real movie, and the result is somewhat successful.
Roth has never really been a director who stands out, thanks to the way his movies look. Because of this, Thanksgiving seems to be the perfect film for his set of skills. This is not to say that the film looks bad, but it is indeed very cheap-looking. This fits the grindhouse aesthetic of the teeth, but it might turn some people off. Nowadays, there are many prestige horror films available for audiences, with more coming in the near future. Thanksgiving feels dated, even if intentionally, and while the classic look might bring nostalgia, it doesn’t really make for an attractive film.
Less thought has been given to the story. There are several characters, and things are happening here and there, but nothing really calls for attention. The story is just an excuse to create scenarios where the killer will murder other characters in the most gruesome possible ways. Are the kills fun? Yes, they are. However, they are so over the top that I wouldn’t be surprised if most people see this movie as a comedy instead of a proper horror film. This also seems to be intentional, but it would also probably create a lot of confusion in the audience.
Thanksgiving Movie Review: Star Performance
It becomes clear as the movie progresses that both Eli Roth and his cast are committed to creating something that is just fun and nothing else, which is good. Not all movies need to be serious or deal with a very heavy subject. However, this angle affects some of the performances. They are not bad per se, but they are not good either. Most of the actors end up following the flow of the movie and giving very over-the-top performances. They fit within the context of the film, but it doesn’t make any of them come across as amazing performers.
Nell Verlaque is our final girl of the day, and she comes across as a very solid performer. The script doesn’t give her role any meat, but she pushes through with sheer force of will and her natural charisma. She really looks like the girl next door, which makes it more impressive that she is managing to survive all of this. The rest of the surrounding cast is mostly disposable, not because of the performers themselves, but because that is what the movie asks of them.
Thanksgiving Movie Review: Direction, Music
As we said before, Eli Roth has never been known for having an amazing directional style. You can feel that Roth mostly follows his heart when it comes to directing, and this gives each of his movies a sense that they are pure and mostly done to appeal to his own likes and dislikes. Even a movie like “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” seems to have that kind of delivery in its execution. When taking into account that that movie was very much a studio picture, it makes Roth someone to be admired.
However, pureness and honesty do not always translate into something that is good or fun. Roth’s direction in Thanksgiving seems mostly solid, but there is nothing to write about. Thanksgiving should have been his chance to step up to the likes of Rodriguez or Edgar Wright, especially when it comes to delivering a fun, crazy ride. Sadly, Thanksgiving seems to run out of gas very fast after the killings start happening. The movie never really goes to the next level. Some crazy things happen in the third act, but by that point, audiences might have disconnected.
Thanksgiving Movie Review: The Last Word
Thanksgiving feels like a wasted opportunity. We are still waiting for that project that will make Roth a household name. It seems like he never managed to go the entire way, even in projects like this, where we know he could probably excel. We will have to wait to see what happens with his next project, Borderlands, based on the popular video game franchise. Maybe the video game space is where Roth will find his stride as a director. Thanksgiving might be fun at the start, but this one probably won’t become a holiday classic.
Thanksgiving was released on November 17, 2023.
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For more recommendations, read our Wonka Movie Review here.