Horror is a much maligned film genre and an easy one to hate or at least not take seriously. It doesn’t help that most horror output is garbage, which could be argued of any film genre. But when someone takes it in unexpected directions or, in the case of director Eli Roth’s new film Thanksgiving, puts a fresh and fun spin on existing tropes, it can be thrilling.
Set in the small town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, complete with the accent and the attitude, the story opens on Thanksgiving. As is the way with fevered American consumerism, Black Friday starts on the night of Thanksgiving at RightMart, Plymouth’s local big box store. Tragedy strikes when a stampede of gluttonous shoppers results in a few deaths. The second act begins a year later when a serial killer unleashes a rampage of bloody revenge against those he (or she) sees as the culprits of the previous year’s tragedy.
Starting with his Hostel films, Eli Roth established himself as a craftsman of the graphic with a real flair for gore. With Thanksgiving, Roth delivers violence that is still very full-blown to the point where it’s almost comical while winking at us the whole time, balancing the horror and suspense with delicious doses of dark humor.
Roth is also making a scathing commentary on Americans’ rabid consumer culture with this movie. The spark that lights the entire story is a shopping event that portrays American consumers at their most grotesque. It manages to be horrifying and hilarious at the same time.
As I mentioned, Roth puts a fresh spin on existing tropes here. The opening shot is a literal nod to the opening of John Carpenter’s Halloween, the violence is an homage to Dario Argento, and the overall plot of the film is a re-tread (and improvement) of I Know What You Did Last Summer. (I Know What You Did Last Thanksgiving?)
If you’re game for a well-crafted slasher, you’ll really enjoy this one. It’s a lot of fun.
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