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Review: ‘Thanksgiving’ is a bloodcurdling feast best served cold

‘Thanksgiving’ is a slasher movie that follows a murderous pilgrim taking revenge

A scene from 'Thanksgiving' courtesy of © Sony Pictures
A scene from 'Thanksgiving' courtesy of © Sony Pictures

‘Thanksgiving’ is a slasher movie that follows a murderous pilgrim taking revenge on the perpetrators of a holiday massacre.

The official purpose of most holidays is to spend time with loved ones, disconnecting from work and reconnecting with the most important people in one’s life. However, most holidays have been co-opted by commercial entities that claim gifts, specifically expensive ones, are required to show one’s affections and that time off should be spent shopping enormous sales. The latter often involves battling other bargain hunters with brutal footage emerging each year from the United States following Black Friday and Boxing Day. In Thanksgiving, an early bird sale turns fatal, resulting in the vengeful appearance of John Carver the following year.

Unsurprisingly, Thanksgiving is a big deal in Plymouth, but that didn’t stop the owner of Right Mart from opening his store the day before Black Friday for early discounts. Unfortunately, the combination of an unruly mob of shoppers and a lack of adequate security turns disastrous when several people are killed and others seriously injured. One year later, in spite of protests, Right Mart once again intends to open on Thanksgiving. But someone dressed in a John Carver mask is ensuring the most culpable participants in the first incident pay for their sins — including the Right Mart teenage heiress (Addison Rae) and all her friends.

Social media plays a central role in the film, first as video of the retail carnage goes viral, and then as a way to taunt the soon-to-be victims and police. While the teens are quick to take the online threats seriously, the adults are resigned to believe it’s just a prank in poor taste — at least until parts of the bodies start piling up. There are several potential suspects for audiences to choose from as that bloody day left many broken lives. Thus, viewers get to play detective while watching the horrors unfold on screen.

Filmmaker Eli Roth entered the genre scene 21 years ago with Cabin Fever, following it up with the film credited with reviving torture porn, Hostel, and later the cannibal epic, Green Inferno. That’s all to say, one knows what to expect when sitting down for a Roth film and this movie doesn’t disappoint. The premise for Roth’s first slasher originally appeared as a fake trailer in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse.  While it’s somewhat tamer than many of Roth’s previous outings, there is definitely some thought and creativity put into the murders — a few of which were lifted directly from the early teaser. Some are sudden and brutal, while others are drawn out and cringe-worthy, finding inventive ways to hurt and dispatch the victim. He’s also sure to sprinkle in a couple of jump scares, which generally work since they’re integrated so sparsely.

Whether the film is a commentary on capitalism or just an opportunity to play with a bizarre American phenomenon, it couldn’t be timelier. And while it doesn’t contribute anything to the overall story, there is a post-credit scene that’s equivalent to something you might find in a gag reel.

Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Addison Rae, Patrick Dempsey and Gina Gershon

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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