“Thanksgiving” is not related to the happy holiday that you might have heard about. No, this one is a spin-off from a 2007 ‘double-feature’ named “Grindhouse”. It started life in there as a ‘fake trailer’ for a fake slasher/horror movie. But for the third time, a “Grindhouse” trailer has become a real movie.
It is a troubled Thanksgiving evening in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is the day before Black Friday, that date that retailer crave for huge crowds and insane profits. The only insanity can be found in the unruly mob assembled right outside the doors. The ‘Right Mart’ store owner, Mr. Wright (played by Rick Hoffman) is at home with family.
Wright’s daughter Jessica (played by Nell Verlaque) is about to leave with her boyfriend Bobby (played by Jalen Thomas Brooks). Wright’s new wife, Kathleen (played by Karen Cliche) has tried to get to know Jess. But Jess is not over her mother’s death. Other people stop by, such as the town’s top cop – Sheriff Newlon (played by Patrick Dempsey). His wife is also there (played by Gina Gershon).
But the big sale at the huge store is a major draw. So Jess and Bobby go with some friends to the place that her father owns. It is all secure, because Mr. Wright has hired two extra security guards. Big Whoop! Jess and her friends get into the store early to shop. When the mob of hundreds outside the store see the youngsters inside shopping, they get enraged. One guard flees for his life, and the other is trampled to death.
Doors are broken down, and hundreds are inside rioting within minutes. All of Jessica’s friends are live-streaming the chaos. There are some people killed by the crowd. That includes Sheriff Newlon’s wife, among some others. Bobby, who was a star pitcher on the team, gets his wrist broken. Only after Sheriff Newlon shoots off his gun into ceiling does the mayhem cease.
It’s the next year, and unrepentant Mr. Wright wants to open up again at midnight for a blow-out sale. People have died in the prior year’s riot. But all of the security footage was missing. Also missing is Bobby, who seems to have fled town. Jess is now going with a different guy named Ryan (played by Milo Manheim). Jess has a girlfriend named Gabby (played by Addison Rae), and they all hang out with friends from school. Of course, it included the quarterback and the top cheerleader.
The town of Plymouth was founded by the Pilgrims, led by John Carver. His memory is celebrated with a Town Park at his old place, and masks that resemble his face. The mask looks a little bit like the one from the movie “V is for Vengeance”. But a mask is also good for covering your identity. Just ask Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. It’s good to use when you slice-n-dice.
And before too long, that is exactly what Plymouth’s new ‘John Carver’ is up to. For some reason, there is a serial killer on the loose with mind on revenge. Because of the tragedy at the ‘Right Mart’ the year before, there are new victims who must be chased down and slaughtered. The initial people are the ones who either greedily caused a death, or could have helped – and instead ran away.
Pretty soon, there are bodies piling up. Or in some cases, most of the pieces of the bodies. Some crazed killer is on the loose. Sheriff Newlon is dragged from place to place, finding new crime scenes. He has a new partner now, Deputy Labelle (played by Jeff Teravainen) who recently arrived in town. Also back in town is Bobby, who now has a healed wrist and broken dreams.
Jessica finds that a social media account is tagging her and her friends. It is clear that someone knows they were in the store first last year. That might have incited the riots, and the mayhem and the deaths. Her father and his new wife Kathleen are sure that Jess is getting too excited about the whole thing.
It gets closer and closer to Thanksgiving Day. The leaves are dropping from the trees, just like the bodies that have been slaughtered and carved up by the ‘John Carver’ killer. There is a lot of blood and gore that is left in the trail of the serial killer. There is some master plan for this fiend, and you know the slayings confounded the police at every turn.
In the final act, who will survive? There is a big Thanksgiving Day parade. But new disasters occur, and more bodies lay motionless. The entire Wright family, and all other people that the killer blames for the ‘Right Mart Riots’ are kidnapped. Will the police finally get to the scene of a crime in time? Will more people get murdered, or will the director yell “Cut”?
“Thanksgiving” is a gore-filled fright-fest of murderous chaos in the small town of Plymouth. The rating is very Hard-R, based on the language and violent deaths. The movie serves up a main course of mayhem, with some side helpings of satire and parody.
Eli Roth has made a career of going over-the-top in sickeningly squeamish fashion. If that is your thing, then this movie will give you all that you need. The acting is basic enough to get across the revenge story. The final ‘reveal’ of the actual ‘John Carver’ rampage murderer might be guessed, then maybe not. Some things don’t add up, but logic left this movie a long time ago.
“Thanksgiving” has come from humble beginnings as a ‘fake trailer’ for a fake slasher/horror movie. Be careful next time when you say “slice me off some more white meat”.
Directed by: Eli Roth
Screenplay by: Jeff Rendell
Story by: Eli Roth, Jeff Rendell
Based on “Thanksgiving” by Eli Roth, Jeff Rendell
Starring: Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Gina Gershon
Cinematography: Milan Chadima
Edited by: Michele Conroy, Michel Aller
Music by: Brandon Roberts
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Release date: November 17, 2023
Length: 106 minutes
MPAA rating: R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, pervasive language and some sexual material