2023 | rated R | starring Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Patrick Dempsey | directed by Eli Roth | 1h 46m |

Thanksgiving was born from a fake trailer sandwiched in the intermission of Robert Rodriguez and Quinten Tarantino’s 2007 film Grindhouse. That 2 minutes was arguably the highlight of the film and horrormeister Eli Roth’s career. In the year’s since, he’s made or produced gorehound junk (The Green Inferno, Aftershock) and unnecessary remakes (Knock Knock, Death Wish) while we all begged to see a full length version of Thanksgiving. Congratulations, everyone we’ve lived long enough to see it. While the new Spyglass Studio’s Thanksgiving (the same studio that revived slashers with the Scream requels – before nuking it this week) is more polished and plot-heavy then we’d expect from the campy 70s-style trailer vibe, it’s still a fun, funny movie with a satisfying delivery of blood-splatter and holiday puns.

One year ago in the town of Plymouth, MA, the owner of the Right Mart store (Rick Hoffman, Hostel) decides to bump up his Black Friday deals to Thanksgiving night with promises of a discount waffle iron, this causes pandemonium in the store as a mob surges through the doors and tramples everyone in sight with Right Mart family daughter Jessica (Nell Verlaque) and her obnoxious friends in the middle of the mayhem. One year later, a psychopath starts going on a revenge spree against everyone involved dressed in a mask of town founder John Carver and wielding an axe – and other Thanksgiving- themed weapons.

Eli Roth is both the ideal and not-so-much filmmaker for this project. It’s his brain child and he effectively lifts it from Grindhouse camp to 80s/early 90s theme horror (think Dr. Giggles) without turning tipping the tone to either too serious and too self-aware. He also delivers where it really counts, a series of elaborate and creative Thanksgiving-themed kills (though my favorite just involves a dumpster). It’s actually impressive how much of the fake trailer’s series of random kills he was able to fold into a coherent story. You’d come away from the trailer thinking Thanksgiving would probably be a home invasion flick featuring a bunch of randy teens. This version is a whodunnit built around Black Friday satire and revenge.

Roth is also not ideal in that a lot of his old filmmaking yips are very present in Thanksgiving. The pacing, the dialog, the characters. The film spans all over Plymouth, MA but doesn’t quite settle down enough to really drop us into the town during the holidays. It’s worldbuilding is mostly on sets. Roth’s dialog is better here than in most films, but is usually just characters yelling the F word at each other. Everyone in the film is having a fit all the time. But technically pacing is a real problem. It sucks the air out of what should be a galvanizing first scene. Roth spends SO much time in the opening arranging the pieces before the store massacre that it sucks the fun out of what should be a showstopper of a set piece along the lines of Alejandra Aja’s Piranha massacre. The same goes for the climax, which fittingly lands on a terrific set piece and ditches that for more running around in empty warehouses. Teen melodrama is dragged out and suspense set pieces are cut down, the movie feels slightly off balance.

The slasher movie 16 years in the making, Thanksgiving is a fun time and easily Eli Roth’s best movie to date, with Nell Verlaque a solid lead in the scream queen role. It’s not going to reinvent the slasher wheel or call back to the Grindhouse fun of Robert Rodriguez’s feature Machete, but I had a good time.