“Thanksgiving” Puts the Ritual Killing in a Formerly Horror-less Holiday

In a cinematic year filled with logline leftovers based on Air Jordan sneakers, Blackberry devices and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, moviegoers can express guilty pleasure and gratitude for a film adapted from its own Grindhouse mock trailer. Expect to preview coming attractions for a surefire franchise-in-the-making because Eli Roth’s latest scrappy, schlocky and overstuffed horror movie is certain to become a perennial feast: this first Thanksgiving (B-) film with a Final Girl delivers a multi-course cornucopia of clever kills. The movie’s cold open foists viewers into the mayhem and satirical delirium of a Black Friday sale riot that ends in a bargain-hunting bloodbath; a year later, in a related revenge storyline, a sextet of precocious Plymouth Rock teenagers try to avert a mysterious serial killer intent on creating a carving board of the Massachusetts town’s denizens. Nell Verlaque is a bright and nuanced lead actress supported by an ensemble of familiar faces such as Patrick Dempsey (yikes, that terrible Boston accent!) and Gina Gershon (mercifully muted) in supporting roles. The film is exactly as advertised – a Scream-style thriller mystery festooned in harvest season accoutrements, from pitchforks to parades. In the film genre of splatter films set on gory days, this is much more mid-tier slasher à la Happy Birthday to Me than rising to Halloween masterpiece levels. The story contains genuine jump scares, grisly murders of the bloody disgusting variety and ribald belly laughs. The film’s veritable turkey trot of graphic violence is so mercilessly cartoonish, it makes Cocaine Bear look downright avant garde. There’s an inspired moment when the heroine hides from the masked “John Carver” among mannequin heads in a beauty school classroom and employs hairspray as impromptu mace. Roth paces the film with finesse and fury and continually raises the stakes; he never mistakenly confuses his film with high art. Sure some elements are undercooked, but it’s ultimately a cavalcade of communal gasps. Buckle up, pilgrims, for high-camp, high-stakes, horned-up plenty.

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