Thanksgiving (2023)


Eli Roth


Patrick Dempsey - Sheriff Eric Newton

Nell Verlaque - Jessica Wright

Addison Rae - Gabby

Jalen Thomas Brooks - Bobby

Milo Manheim - Ryan

Rick Hoffman - Thomas Wright

Gina Gershon - Amanda Collins

Tomaso Sanelli - Evan

Gabriel Davenport - Scuba

Jenna Warren - Yulia

Karen Cliche - Kathleen

Ty Olsson - Mitch Collins

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 106 Minutes


An axe-wielding maniac terrorizes residents of Plymouth, Mass., after a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy. Picking off victims one by one, the seemingly random revenge killings soon become part of a larger, sinister plan.


Back in 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino released a double-feature called GRINDHOUSE - an unfortunate box-office miss but a huge cult classic that showcased Rodriguez’s PLANET TERROR and Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF, as well as fake trailers that ended up being discussion points all their own. Probably the most popular trailer was for Eli Roth’s THANKSGIVING, a homage to old school slashers focused around popular holidays. It gained enough buzz that Roth teased it would become an actual film.

For a while, hope for a THANKSGIVING movie lost traction as Eli Roth was more focused on other projects either as a director, actor or producer. But soon enough, Roth confirmed it was happening and we started getting photos and footage of the production. So after 16 years, THANKSGIVING was finally released in time for the actual holiday. But was it worth the wait or a total disappointment?

I can happily say that not only is THANKSGIVING worth the wait and a very cool slasher movie, but it’s also one of Eli Roth’s best films - at least his best one since probably CABIN FEVER. THANKSGIVING is a slasher that knows what it is, playing as a old-school whodunit slasher rather than your modern self-aware slasher film like SCREAM. And honestly, that’s actually refreshing in this modern horror scene. I was happy to see archetypal characters hitting those expected tropes, with a nice bit of depth to each of them as well. Add in a mystery to our Killer Pilgrim and we got ourselves a fun, little slasher flick here.

I appreciated the simplicity of the story, as it’s your typical revenge slasher film where the mysterious killer is targeting the protagonists due to being part of a sin, or crime, that the killer feels must be dealt with. In THANKSGIVING, the first ten or fifteen minutes involves a Black Friday event gone really wrong, as frustrated customers rush into a store for a free waffle iron while pushing, attacking, trampling and killing random people inside the store. One of the victims is a close friend of the killer, causing them to want vengeance on a bunch of teenagers who snuck into the store [the Final Girl’s dad owns the establishment].

Unfortunately, I figured out the killer’s identity right when the inciting incident happened. But the film does play it smart in making a few of the characters red herrings. The Final Girl Jessica has two love interests - one who was injured during the Black Friday incident and disappeared for a while before returning, and another who has money and looks down at some of her friends - both who have motive. The former manager of the store makes it known he wants to take the corporation down, especially since his wife was murdered during Black Friday. We have the owner of the store [Jessica’s dad] and his greedy new wife. We have the Sheriff of the town who was there. We also have an A-hole jock and his more heroic A-hole jock friend. There’s also a new Deputy who doesn’t mind wearing the Pilgrim mask from time to time. The characters have enough depth beyond their archetypes to give each one of them reason to want revenge on what happened. 

And the film plays out like an old school slasher should. We have characters acting stupid and doing dumb things that get them into trouble. We have characters who seem villainous who are actually misunderstood. We have characters who seem heroic but are just hiding secrets that relate to the Black Friday fiasco. There are side characters who are just there to increase the body count. And there are some great murder sequences - including someone getting baked inside a giant oven, impaled through the head, sliced in half by a dumpster and even fire. Some of the kills from the original 2007 trailer do make it in, like the Thanksgiving Parade decapitation. The trampoline scene is here, but it’s done differently and not as impactful. And no human turkeys get sexually assaulted, as times have changed since 2007. I do wish the double decapitation bit from the trailer was included though, as that was some of the funniest stuff in the trailer. But this version of THANKSGIVING plays things more seriously, so I can understand why it’s not included.

To say that THANKSGIVING is Eli Roth’s best looking and most polished film is an understatement. There’s a confidence here, as Roth probably had this film playing in his head for almost two decades, knowing exactly what shots he was gonna do and how he was going to visually play the story out. The gore looks great. The flow is pretty much exceptional. There’s actual tension and suspense. And when humor is used, it’s actually pretty funny. Roth also uses locations well, making them characters of their own. And as you watch, it’s obvious he was inspired by other slasher films. The opening is a take on the opening scene of the original HALLOWEEN. The Thanksgiving Parade is straight out of 1997’s I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. There’s a Thanksgiving dinner scene that’s obviously a homage to 1981’s HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME. And we have a love angle that seems to be inspired by 1981’s MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Just really cool how Roth incorporated all of this to make a fun throwback slasher.

The cast is good as well. Nell Verlaque is solid as Jessica, the Final Girl who is smart and aware of bad things when they happen. Verlaque is sympathetic and likable. Patrick Dempsey returns to horror as Sheriff Newton, portraying a convincing authority figure who sometimes seems over his head when it comes to the slashings. Jalen Thomas Brooks is good as Bobby, Jessica’s returning ex-boyfriend. While he comes across as reliable and likable, some of Brooks’ actions for his character make you question his true motives. Same goes to Milo Manheim as Ryan, Jessica’s current boyfriend who seems to have a chip on his shoulder, making you wonder what his deal is. Addison Rae, Gabriel Davenport and especially Tomaso Sanelli are good as Jessica’s friends - especially Saneilli, who plays a jock who you wouldn’t mind getting picked off for how he behaves and treats other people. And it’s always cool to see character actors like Rick Hoffman and Gina Gershon in supporting roles.


is worth the 16-year wait, as it plays by the old school slasher rules and has a good time doing so. With a solid cast and your typical whodunit slasher mystery, the movie ends up being a fun ride due to archetypes that have a bit more depth than expected, wild gore sequences and a strong use of locations and set pieces that build a lot more tension and atmosphere than I was expecting. It’s also nice to see an engaged Eli Roth direct one of his best movies in his filmography, playing homage to many familiar slasher movies while putting his own twist on each one. The film looks good, the pacing is solid and the humor actually works in the movie’s favor. Plus, this John Carver villain has a great look and could be a cult icon if the film becomes more successful to create a franchise out of. THANKSGIVING doesn’t reinvent the slasher wheel and the villain’s identity is pretty easy to figure out, which took away the mystery aspect for me. But overall, I had a lot of fun with a movie I’ve been waiting a long time for and it didn't disappoint for the most part. THANKSGIVING will probably be an annual movie tradition for me every end of November.


3 Howls Outta 4

(8 out of 10)


Howls of the Week (10/29/23 - 11/04/23)

This will probably be a new feature, similar to the old monthly LUNAR CYCLE I used to do. I figured I would just post quick thoughts on films I've recently seen, while giving bigger/solo spotlights to more popular/important films. Let's see how this goes.


Directed By: Paul Morrissey

Starring: Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Vittorio de Sica, Maxine McKendry

Genre: Horror/Vampires

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Score: 3 Howls Outta 4 (8 out of 10)

Plot: Deathly ill Count Dracula and his slimy underling, Anton, travel to Italy in search of a virgin’s blood. They’re welcomed at the crumbling estate of indebted Marchese Di Fiore, who’s desperate to marry off his daughters to rich suitors. But there, instead of pure women, the count encounters incestuous lesbians with vile blood and Marxist manservant Mario, who’s suspicious of the aristocratic Dracula.

Presented by Andy Warhol after the cult success of FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN, BLOOD FOR DRACULA is director’s Paul Morrissey’s superior follow up that focuses on Dracula and her servant traveling to Italy searching for virgin blood, as Dracula is severely ill from a lack of pure sustenance. While the acting is not great and the story isn’t the strongest, BLOOD FOR DRACULA is very worthwhile for a few reasons.

One, Morrissey’s direction is very good, as he uses many camera techniques and shot-scales to enhance the narrative. The cinematography is also well done, as this film is quite beautiful to look at.

Two, the subtext in this film is very strong and shows that a Dracula in a modern world probably wouldn’t survive for too long. There’s commentary on politics, class status [a rich Count is feeding on the poor to make himself richer] and the deterioration of religion when it comes to sex. The fact that this Dracula turns literal green after feeding on non-virgin blood twice within a supposed religious household says it all.

And three, this has to be one of the sleaziest DRACULA films ever put to screen. Incestuous siblings, a servant who forces himself on women [who ends up being the hero strangely] and disgusting acts like Dracula crawling on the floor to lick up virgin blood after a girl has been sexually assaulted to save her life from the Count. Not to mention, the epic finale that will probably make you lose a few limbs like you’re a Black Knight in a Monty Python sketch.

This is a DRACULA story that needs to be watched if you enjoy a memorable vampire flick.


Directed By: José Ramón Larraz

Starring: Marianne Morris, Anulka Dziubinska, Murray Brown, Brian Deacon, Sally Faulkner

Genre: Horror/Vampires

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Score: 2.5 Howls Outta 4 (6 out of 10)

Plot: A duo of bisexual female vampires prey on passing motorists, whom they seduce and murder in the English countryside. 

A story of bisexual vampires luring people at night to satiate their bloodlust, Jose Ramon Larraz’s VAMPYRES is a visually stunning film that unfortunately doesn’t have much of a story to really invest in. This film is a sleazy slow burn, with the two lead actresses seducing characters and the audiences with their good looks and sexual chemistry with each other. Cinemax would be proud of the sex scenes displayed in this movie. The use of the film’s main setting, a mansion in the countryside, is well done. The forest outside of this mansion almost seems like a character in itself, as these beautiful vampires just lurk around waiting for victims. It’s just too bad there’s not much of a story besides the brutal opening scene and a love triangle of sorts between the two vampires and a male victim one of them is in love with. VAMPYRES is not a scary film, more focused on titillating the audience. But watching the male lead kiss one of the actresses multiple times was pretty nightmare inducing. Open mouth, flailing tongue and just nasty love making all around. Even beautiful vampires can have a lack of taste, I guess.


Directed By: Jean Rollin

Starring: Franca Mai, Jean-Marie Lamaire, Brigitte Lahaie, Fanny Magier

Genre: Horror/Vampires

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Score: 3 Howls Outta 4 (8 out of 10)

Plot: A runaway criminal breaks into an eerie chateau, taking its two frightened chambermaids hostage. As night falls, a group of mysterious aristocratic women arrive and the criminal begins to realize the women are hiding a sinister secret.

My first Jean Rollin film ever, believe it or not, the French-language FASCINATION is a vampire movie that surprised me with how well shot and how well told it was. The plot is super simple, with a thief hiding inside a chateau with two beautiful servants who obviously aren’t as they seem. The film is romantic, melodramatic and has very memorable moments throughout. I think the iconic scene is the scythe sequence, which is full of tension and suspense. It’s also quite stunning to look at. For an 80 minute film, it sets up a lot for the first two acts before crashing into a sinister and bloody final act that feels mostly ironic to what we knew of these characters and their situations before. It’s also interesting how they tried to make the thief into an anti-hero of sorts by the end, even though it doesn’t really feel earned. But love will make you do some strange things, whether it’s returned or not. FASCINATION proves that there’s beauty in horror.


Directed By: Tony Scott 

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff DeYoung, Beth Ehlers, Dan Heyada

Genre: Horror/Drama/Vampires

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Score: 3 Howls Outta 4 (8 out of 10)

Plot: Miriam promises her lovers the gift of eternal life, but John, her companion for centuries, suddenly discovers that he is getting old minute by minute, so he looks for Dr. Sarah Roberts, a researcher on the mechanisms of aging, and asks her for help.

The late Tony Scott’s directorial debut, this cult classic adapted from a novel didn’t get a lot of love 40 years ago. And while it’s definitely imperfect, it shows Scott’s style that would only improve in his future works like TOP GUN and TRUE ROMANCE. It’s visually sleek, looking atmospheric and moody like those early MTV music videos, with quick editing and juxtapositions to make certain moments pop. While the story could be stronger, I do appreciate the themes addressed in the film. Having the man deal with the effects of aging instead of a woman is an interesting touch, especially when this struggle also seems to be a commentary on the AIDS epidemic that had only just become known two years prior. The performances are very good with Catherine Deneuve being a strong presence as Miriam, who gives her lovers the promise of an eternal life but had all of them age on her quickly for some reason. David Bowie is captivating as Deneuve’s husband, John, getting to play with aging makeup and a pretty messed-up murder sequence. And Susan Sarandon is stunning as the doctor who is studying these aging effects, but gets caught up in Miriam’s web to bad results. Any film that starts out with a Bauhaus performance definitely deserves one’s attention.

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