From the spine-tingling hallways of Hostel to the fake yet impactful trailers of Grindhouse, Eli Roth‘s maverick penchant for blending fright and surprise finds an amply accommodating playground in Thanksgiving, his recent venture into the slasher film territory. However, it feels like an odyssey marked with sloppy beginnings and hurried conclusions.
Loosely inspired by Roth and Jeff Rendell‘s trailer of the same name in Grindhouse, the film smartly capitalizes on the quiet, picturesque charm of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Set in the serene town, where the memory of Black Friday tragedy still simmers, the Thanksgiving-inspired slayer does his bloody business. Although the promise of an engrossing narrative is massive, the reality hits rock bottom during the first thirty minutes. Laden with a shocking pace of predictability and redundancy, the audience finds itself battling disappointment instead of shivers of thrill and fear.
What feels like a punctured tire, gradually inflates with some breath-taking gore work and brutally innovative kills, a feature Eli Roth seems to excel at. However, one might argue the disturbing quotient overpowers the entertaining aspect at certain times. Amidst all this mayhem, it’s refreshing to witness some brilliantly measured performances, notably from Nell Verlaque as Jessica Wright, whose innocent resilience shines, and Patrick Dempsey who channels Sheriff Eric Newlon with laudable dedication.
However, the awe-striking gore is inversely proportional to the nature of some other characters in the narrative. Their exasperating, bordering-on-the-unbearable presence makes the ride choppy, taking away from the anticipation, leaving you with pure vexation. A special mention of Addison Rae as Gabby whose flimsy character execution tugs down the collective credibility of the film, eclipsing her colleagues’ stellar works. To be clear, Rae is not the problem here whatsoever. As a matter of fact, Rae does a fantastic job in the role of Gabby. Rae deserved a better character to showcase her seriously strong acting chops. It’s just that her character was extremely irritating.
On the bright side, Thanksgiving finds redemption in the mystifying persona of its killer, embodying the unhinged lunacy of holiday tradition-gone-wrong perfectly. Combined with the luminous and stylistic cinematography by Milan Chadima, the essence of an impending doom is captured in each frame, helping maintain a decent level of curiosity and tension.
The film does, however, have some weak dialogue every so often which was a disappointment. Armed with bland, unimaginative lines, it’s difficult to invest emotionally in any of the characters or their imminent peril. Several sequences suffer because the dialogue merely sounds like ‘space-fillers,’ lacking substance and impact. There’s an overt inconsistency between the robust narrative structure and the fragile foundation laid by these spoken words.
Thanksgiving also stumbles into a messy finale, hurrying to the finish line instead of organically weaving to its close. After overcoming an array of pit-holes and beginning to taste like an elaborate feast, it ultimately ends abruptly, feeling more like an unfinished sketch, dousing any sizzling hopes the audience might have had.
Despite its flawed storytelling, Eli Roth’s slasher endeavor Thanksgiving resonates due to its iconic gore style and robust performances from Nell Verlaque and Patrick Dempsey. The vivid aesthetics from Milan Chadima save the day for this narrative that is as sporadic as a rogue jack-in-the-box. Whether or not Thanksgiving garners praise will majorly depend on whether the viewers choose to overlook its damning limitations and enjoy the tantalizing fright fest instead.
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Thanksgiving Movie Review: A Fun and Gory Holiday Slasher
Acting - 7/10
Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/10
Plot/Screenplay - 5/10
Setting/Theme - 6.5/10
Watchability - 7/10
Rewatchability - 6/10
3 (1 vote)
About Caillou Pettis
Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.