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November 17, 2023 / Sony Pictures Canada

Starring: Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Brooks Thomas, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Gina Gershon

Directed By: Eli Roth

A year after a tragic incident in which over-zealous shoppers in Plymouth, Massachusetts stampeded a Right Mart big-box store on Black Friday, leaving several injured and dead, a group of high school friends are stalked over the Thanksgiving holiday by a killer dressed as a pilgrim, wearing a mask of the first Plymouth governor, John Carver.

The murders are investigated by Sheriff Newlon (Patrick Dempsey), but it’s Jessica (Nell Verlaque), the store owner's daughter, who begins to put the pieces together when she and her friends receive notifications from the killer on Instagram with images of a table that has been set for Thanksgiving.

Review By Darren

Rating 4 out of 5

Thanksgiving carves up an outstanding slasher full of brutal and gory kills that will have audiences devouring every second of this bloody entertaining film, delivering the best film yet from horror mastermind Eli Roth.

It’s a day that horror fans thought they would never see, but Eli Roth has finally made Thanksgiving a reality. Originally shot as a trailer for a fake movie as part of Grindhouse, Roth and his childhood friend Jeff Rendell have turned their trailer into a reality and fulfilled their longtime wish for a horror movie set during the Thanksgiving holiday season. Roth is one of the most prolific names in modern horror, a true lover of the genre and its history, even if the majority of his films are too gruesome for most viewers. But it’s without question that Thanksgiving is not only Roth’s magnum opus, but the best original slasher film since Scream that carves up a bloody body count that will have horror enthusiasts screaming for seconds!

One year after the deaths of the Right Mart Black Friday riots, a masked killer wearing a John Carver mask begins to stalk the citizens of Plymouth, Massachusetts on the days leading up to Thanksgiving. With her friends and family as targets, Jessica discovers that the killer is targeting anyone who was involved with the Right Mark Black Friday riot. As the body count rises, Jessica must uncover the killer’s identity if she has any hope of surviving the holiday season.

Slasher whodunnits are always a fun time in the horror genre, and Thanksgiving is no exception. The film pays homage to the slashers of the 1990s like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer as the murder targets the local group of teenagers who were involved in the deadly Black Friday mayhem. Roth and Rendell’s story packs a killer instinct as the killer unleashes his deadly plan on the town of Plymouth, delivering a great mixture of scares, gruesome murders and the self-aware comedic elements that are intertwined with the slasher genre thanks to Scream. The film’s opening Black Friday sequence sets the tone of the film with a brutal but slightly hilarious carnage filled sequence, with a biting underlying commentary on consumerism that is never lost for a second. From there, the film jumps ahead to the next Thanksgiving as our killer enacts his revenge. The story quickly moves from one kill sequence to the next, never for a second forgetting why audiences are gathering to watch horror films. While the mystery surrounding the identity of the killer in the John Carver mask is slightly pushed to the background at times, the reveal in the third act is well done and sets up an exciting conclusion to the film. And despite the film having some plot points that weren’t fully followed through on, it leaves lots of leftovers for Roth and Rendell to explore in the sequel that fans will be clamouring for.

If there is one thing Roth is known for, it is gore, and this film delivers it in spades. Each kill is brutal, fully embracing its R rating with some of the most grotesque and gory kills in a horror film in recent memory. While the kills are bloody, they are outrageous enough in nature that capture the fun ridiculousness of the slasher genre, ensuring that they are tolerable and not the utterly disturbing and nightmare inducing kills that Roth is known for. The sequences themselves are expertly crafted, leaning in heavily to the holiday spirit and delivering some themed set pieces that you won’t soon forget. Even the trampoline sequence from the original Thanksgiving Grindhouse trailer gets recreated, giving the full theatrical treatment to one of Roth’s original ideas for the story. Fingers crossed that the sequel features Roth reprising his role from the trailer and recreates the car death as I would love to see that one restaged!

While Roth is firing on all cylinders as writer and director making this film, his cast bears the responsibility of bringing his vision to fruition, and he has assembled a great cast. Seeing Patrick Dempsey return to the slasher genre decades after Scream 3 was fun, bringing a considerable amount of small town charm and a wicked Boston accent that reminds audiences why they fell in love with Dempsey years ago. Nell Verlaque makes for an incredible final girl as Jessica, bringing a tenacity and charm to the lead role as she tries to prevent the killer from carving up her friends and family. It’s a star-making performance for Verlaque, proving her ability to lead a blockbuster film that should catapult her to the next stage of her career instantly. Rick Hoffman and Karen Cliche are great as Jessica’s father and step-mother, each embracing the caricatures they are playing and going to town to help create some of the film’s most memorable moments. Rounding out the cast is Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Gabriel Davenport, Jenna Warren, Ty Olsson, Jeff Teravainen and Gina Gershon, each making the most of their smaller amount of screentime to help create memorable characters.

Not only does Eli Roth deliver on the gruesome premise he has been teasing for sixteen years, but he does so with an expertly crafted horror experience that is the birth of a new classic of the slasher genre! From wickedly gruesome and entertaining kill sequences, a wonderful cast led by the great performances of Nell Verlaque and Patrick Dempsey, and all the holiday madness you could want, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving is not only his finest film to date, but an instant slasher classic that will have fans screaming for seconds!

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