Review: Thanksgiving

Score: B+

Director: Eli Roth

Cast: Nell Verlaque, Patrick Dempsey, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rated: R

Eli Roth's Thanksgiving began life as one of the fantastic fake trailers produced for 2007's Grindhouse. But it's a little late to the feature party. Robert Rodriguez's Machete and the fan-made Hobo with a Shotgun made the leap more than a decade ago. The original short reveled in cheap shocks, paying homage to '80s slashers. But this full-length effort is ultra-slick and modern, with plenty of old-school gore.

A year after a deadly riot at a Black Friday sale killed several people, the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, is still struggling to move on. While lawsuits and protests against the big box store that hosted the massacre continue, the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. A masked killer begins taunting the town - and the ultra-rich people who invoked the chaos last year - first with cryptic social media posts, then with bloody crime scenes.

Written by Jeff Rendell and Roth (who wrote the original), the film feels heavily indebted to the original Scream, as well as the more recent iterations. The characters are all archetypes, with little growth or development. But the writers are aware of this, and there's a little bit of glee in seeing the killer off the most deplorable of the townsfolk in creative ways. And in one of the film's best gags, the killer proves he's not a monster: He feeds the cat of his latest victim before leaving.

The cast, mostly made up of hot young twentysomethings, acquit themselves well enough. They're not going to win any awards, but no one's an embarrassment. Only two actors make a real impression. Patrick Dempsey, the current Sexiest Man Alive, stars as Sheriff Newlon. His affable demeanor covers up how haunted he is by the previous tragedy. But Joe Delfin steals the show as McCarty, a local dirtbag who supplies the teens with booze and unregistered guns. He's one of those guys who's pushing 30, but still living at home and hanging out at the local high school. In real life, that's sad, but here, it's hilarious.

Thanksgiving has more gore than some horror fans may be used to. Yet it knows it's absurd, and it's in on the joke. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but the film's well-executed (pun intended) thrills make it a feast.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.