Thanksgiving review: A delicious feast of bloody horror

Gabriela Silva
Nell Verlaque in ThanksgivingSpyglass Media Group

Eli Roth’s long-awaited Thanksgiving slasher horror movie is a welcome treat ahead of the holiday season. Nothing pairs better with a sweet and tangy cranberry sauce than a well-roasted human.

Having started as a mock trailer for Roth’s 2007 movie Grindhouse, Thanksgiving has finally come to life on the silver screen. There’s nothing like adding a bit of a bloody twist to an American holiday. The movie takes place in Plymouth, Massachusetts as local townspeople are marked by a tragedy during Black Friday a year prior.

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While some people try to forget, one person did not – John Carver. A new year of holiday festivities brings forth a real-life version of the town’s historical character, but this time seeking absolute revenge against the people responsible for last year’s tragedy.

Thanksgiving promises a blood-soaked horror tied with pumpkin pie and a nicely set dinner table. Let’s get into what makes or breaks the movie – with spoilers at a minimum, of course.

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Thanksgiving is slasher galore with a murderous pilgrim

Roth’s movie starts off in a way that immediately captures interest in the best and most nerve-wracking way possible. Like any good movie, you need a bit of backstory as to why some of the residents are not too keen on Thanksgiving, and why they hate Jessica’s (Nell Verlaque) father and rich family. Let’s not forget Jessica’s disinterest in her stepmother, after losing her mother.

Thanksgiving opens with what happened a year prior during the town’s very popular Black Friday sale at the supermart. Which happens to be owned by Jessica’s father. Everyone at some point has felt the utter fear and chaos of Black Friday, but Thanksgiving turns it up to the extreme, which leads to a few not-so-pleasant deaths.

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It sets the tone for the rest of the movie that only more gruesome and cheerworthy murder is yet to come. While the movie does what most horror movies do, aka the revenge-filled killer, the story is well-rounded enough that the cliches aren’t a bother. It’s mostly due to how horribly delicious John Carver begins to kill off people on his list. To be fair, the first few kills had us cheering because they were well-deserved.

Roth’s movie lives up to the slasher genre that even had well-seasoned horror fans gasping at some of the methods of killing (one word: intestines). As the movie progresses, Roth seamlessly interweaves suspense, murder, and the very snappy and witty comedy that most people would resort to if in the same predicament. A note worth mentioning was the clever use of today’s social media, which kickstarted the murder spree and helped John Carver taunt the lead characters. Be warned one of the most horrid scenes doesn’t involve blood, but some nauseating carving.

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The characters are in no way dumb or clichéd

It goes without saying that when watching horror movies, many of us have commentary on the victim’s lack of brains and survival skills. But Thanksgiving pleasantly surprises most when almost all the leading characters have a good sense of fight or flight mode. They realize they would rather risk taking John Carver head-on than be the next meal a the table.

In return, props have to be given to the main cast. Patrick Dempsey does a superb job of playing the lovable and devoted town Sheriff. Meanwhile, Suits star Rick Hoffman seamlessly fits into his role as the town’s rich guy who cares more for business than morals. Audiences will find the group of teen friends are self-absorbed as most teens of the 21st century are, but rise to the occasion of protecting each other when they have no one to trust. Jessica proves to be more than the cliché horror heroine and sees the truth behind John Carver’s actions. The added side characters are also well-written and have a purpose in one way or another.

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The only real flaw in Thanksgiving is the speculation on who the killer is. Of course, there are no spoilers here but the movie made it a bit too easy. While putting the investigative pieces together, there wasn’t a lot of suspects to consider. Some were too obvious and quickly eliminated.

Thanksgiving review score: 4/5

Overall Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving was a pleasant watch from beginning to end. There are no dull moments with well-executed scenarios of suspense and jump scares. The heinous way John Carver murders people elicited the perfect amount of gasps and applause. Oddly enough, John Carver seemed almost humane, especially when feeding a hungry kitten.

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It brings back the ’80s and ’90s horror nostalgia we’ve been looking for. While some scenes could be called from the get-go, it didn’t deter from the grand scope of the movie’s storyline. It’s bloody, gory, comical, witty, and makes anyone think twice about serving turkey this Thanksgiving.

Read more of Dexerto’s TV & Movies news here, some other reviews like Saw X here, and The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes here.

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About The Author

Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Fordham. Senior TV and Movies Writer for Dexerto covering Netflix, Disney+, K-Dramas and everything in between. Previous TV Writer for Showbiz Cheatsheet and List Witer for Screenrant. Any inquiries email at gabriela.silva@dexerto.com