The idea for Eli Roth to make a horror movie about Thanksgiving was originally a joke. Several holidays are synonymous with Hollywood horror. Halloween, of course. Christmas has a few movies. Valentine’s Day too. But Thanksgiving? That’s so silly. Or is it?
While every frame of Thanksgiving, which is now in theaters, has the zest of self-awareness sprinkled on top, Roth (who co-wrote and directs) plays things super seriously. It’s like everyone involved was told, “Yes, this idea is dumb, but if we pretend it’s not dumb, everything will fall into place.” And so, the film has the best of both worlds. We enjoy the absurdity of the premise but are sucked in by everyone’s commitment to it. There is plenty of humor throughout, but it comes almost exclusively from Roth’s penchant for gag-inducing horror. You laugh because you’re revolted, not because you don’t care. All of which carves Thanksgiving into a very sharp, very fun slasher flick that feels more familiar than not, but still delivers on the sick, silly promise that came from that fake trailer almost 20 years ago.
All of this comes together right at the start of the film with its completely mental opening sequence. While the Thanksgiving holiday is filled with recognizable iconography, most of which is well-represented in the movie, Roth takes a sharp turn right at the start, kicking things off in a whole other place entirely. Another huge facet of modern Thanksgiving is the idea of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when holiday shopping begins with lots of unmissable discounts. It’s an idea that’s evolved over the years and, in some unfortunate cases, gotten out of hand with violence and mayhem..
Thanksgiving starts there, with a Black Friday scene taken out of your darkest nightmares. Selfish, cartoonish Americans yelling, screaming, and eventually rioting and hurting one another. It’s a disturbing,…
“The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The opportunity of like is to serve. The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend. The beauty of life is to give.” —William Arthur Ward