Thanksgiving (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Eli Roth, written by Jeff Rendell and Eli Roth and starring Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hoffman, Gina Gershon, Milo Manheim, Addison Rae, Nell Verlaque, Karen Cliche, Ty Olsson, Shailyn Griffin, Jenna Warren, Derek McGrath, Mika Amonsen, Lynne Griffin, Tomaso Sanelli, Alexander Elliot, Tim Dillon, Chris Sandiford and Adam MacDonald.
Eli Roth’s new overstuffed (with gore) Thanksgiving-themed horror movie is simply put, ridiculous from the word, “go.” Thanksgiving features a misconceived premise that originated from a fake commercial for a non-existent movie back in 2007. A Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double bill that bombed at the box-office called Grindhouse showed the preview for a terrifying phony movie called Thanksgiving but the ad was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. So, Roth went ahead and made that rather dumb movie some 16 years after people have long forgotten Grindhouse and the results are mediocre at best.
Roth’s picture opens promisingly with a spoof on Black Friday shopping. A crew of teenagers cut the line of crazed customers at a Walmart-inspired superstore that is offering free waffle irons for its customers. All hell breaks loose and people are trampled on and die although the surveillance footage conveniently disappears. That footage would presumably show who was responsible for the deaths. One of the people who seems to have been killed is Gina Gershon’s character, Amanda Collins, and Gershon deserved better than her part in the film. Anyway, the store manager, Thomas Wright (Rick Hoffman), plans on another big sale one year after the tragedy and a masked killer known as “John Carver” pops up to make sure those who cut the line (and others) pay dearly for what they did.
The usually reliable Tik-Tok star, Addison Rae, co-stars in the movie. She’s been is He’s All That, a Mark Waters film which I enjoyed because of Rae’s personality. In Thanksgiving, Rae has no personality whatsoever. Rae is forced to share scenes with other young performers, all of whom are forgettable in the movie and feel like nothing more than catalysts to drive the plot forward. Turns out Carver is posting some creepy stuff online and tagging Rae’s character, Gabby, and her friends who cut the line which led to the chaos that ensued that Black Friday from a year back.
Patrick Dempsey plays the local single sheriff, Eric Newlon, who discovers bodies popping up, one of which is hanging off the superstore’s sign with guts hanging out. This movie is over-the-top in terms of gore and that may have worked better if the characters were developed a bit more. It seems that they just exist to serve the mechanics of the plot.
Nell Verlaque plays Jessica who is dating someone who could or could not be a creep named Ryan (Milo Manheim). Verlaque is the film’s star but lacks the requisite interesting personality to make the movie work. When Jessica and her friends are tied up at a Thanksgiving horror show of a dinner, audiences probably won’t care if the characters live or die because the characters are not developed enough to provoke interest in the lives of the people the movie follows.
Karen Cliche serves as Kathleen who gets cooked in an oven and carved up at the dinner table for our helpless characters in the most grotesque way possible. There’s even a thermometer stuck in her to tell the killer when she is ready to serve for dinner. Thanksgiving doesn’t spare the gruesome details of the events that occur in the movie right from the start. Since this is a Roth movie, that kind of gore is expected but because of the nature of the events that transpire, the movie could have been saved by likable characters.
While Dempsey is the most interesting character in the movie, the actor doesn’t do anything particularly great in terms of his acting. Dempsey has a bigger role than was expected but the film falls short at the end with one too many twists thrown into the plot willy-nilly. The characters are unlikable and the movie suffers as a result. At one point, a young woman and her boyfriend get killed and the way the girl dies jumping on a trampoline is typical of the type of scene that Roth is known best for–there’s no subtlety to the killings and Roth knows it. But, that makes the movie only accessible to hardcore horror fans. Those who don’t want to watch a movie that is heavy on gore will probably want to stay away.
This review may read like I didn’t like Thanksgiving at all but I enjoyed the first half hour because it seemed to be building up to something more interesting than just an everyday splatterfest. In the end, though, this is simply just another Scream-inspired horror picture that is heavy on the gore and light on character and plot development. It’s not the worst of its kind but is certainly not up to the level of Roth’s previous work.
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