One year after Right Mart in Plymouth, Massachusetts’ early free waffle iron Black Friday event ended in mayhem and multiple deaths, someone dressed as the Pilgrim John Carver, former governor of Plymouth County, is targeting those involved in increasingly gruesome ways in the days leading up to “Thanksgiving.”
Laura's Review: B
Back in 2007, Roberto Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” featured several fake trailers. Since then, two of them – “Machete” and “Hobo with a Shotgun” - have been turned into actual features, but we’ve been waiting ever since for the most outrageous one, Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving,” a brutal yet hilarious take on a holiday slasher film delivered in the form a scratchy old ‘70’s print. So, when the trailer for the long awaited adaptation finally arrived, it was a bit concerning, the film now looking more like a slicker relic of the 2000’s, but I am pleased to report that it delivers on every other promising aspect, making it a new gory comedy horror holiday classic.
As Jessica Right (Nell Verlaque) leaves her Thanksgiving dinner with her boyfriend Bobby (Jalen Thomas Brooks) to head to the movies with two other couples, Mitch Collins (Ty Victor Olsson) has donned his work clothes to face a mob of shoppers just as Sheriff Newlon (Patrick Dempsey), who appears to be sweet on Mitch’s wife (Gina Gershon), drops in. Evan (Tomaso Sanelli), who’s driving the van heading to the movies, suddenly decides he needs a new phone and pulls into Wright’s parking lot where one security guard is dealing with a crazed horde. Jessica objects, but the six teens are let in a side door and once inside Evan begins to taunt the crowd outside with his special access. The barriers come down, glass doors are shattered, a guard and shoppers are crushed, gouged by glass shards, and in the case of Mitch’s wife, who arrived to bring him dinner, scalped when her hair gets caught in a shopping cart wheel.
One year later Jessica is aghast that her dad intends to stage another Black Friday event, her unliked stepmother Kathleen (Karen Cliche, "Saw VI") cheering him on. In the local diner, Lizzie (Amanda Barker), one of the previous year’s most deranged shoppers, waits on locals and hands out Tom Carver masks. When she closes up that night, she’ll be the first to be visited by the fiend wearing one, her death an escalating horror which ends with her lower extremities hanging from Right’s store sign. As the bodies begin to pile up, The Carver reveals his plan, a gruesome Thanksgiving dinner recreation in an unknown location.
Cowriter (with Jeff Rendell, "Grindhouse" trailer segment)/director Eli Roth ("Hostel”) has not only delivered on every beat of his 2007 trailer, but he’s done so with the sick invention of many “Final Destination” films along with character and genre cliché derived humor. The Thanksgiving holiday itself provides a lot of fun, from its use of John Carver, location shooting at Plymouth Plantation (most of the film was shot in Canada) and corny leftover jokes, local town rivalries providing more laughs for Boston natives. Nell Verlaque proves a solid final girl, caught between Bobby, the man who ghosts the town after the tragedy (therefore becoming a suspect) and the smarmy Ryan (Milo Manheim, “Journey to Bethlehem’s” Joseph!), who wins her on the rebound (setting up some mano-a-mano conflict). “Hostel” sadist Rick Hoffman plays secondary villain Right, his eventual change of heart repairing the rift with his daughter. Sanelli is appropriately obnoxious and Barker ladles on the broad Boston accent. Jessica’s other friends are played by Addison Rae, Shailyn Griffin, Gabriel Davenport and Jenna Warren.
While The Carver promises ‘No leftovers!,’ save some room this family holiday for some gory slasher fun – it’s no turkey.
Sony Pictures releases "Thanksgiving" in theaters on 11/17/23.