Thanksgiving, Eli Roth, and the Joy of Holiday Horror
November 2023's Pick by Dean Patrick
Eli Roth’s new film, Thanksgiving (released just days before the holiday itself), opens with a scene of splendid comedic horror as a parking lot full of pre-holiday shoppers goes ballistic to begin the season with hopes of bagging a free waffle iron.
From that moment on Eli’s brand of full-throttle horror races from frame to frame at a hellish pace.
Roth’s films are known for their brutal nature and fierce sarcasm. He’s a filmmaker in love with his craft, which, for the season of 2023, is pure holiday joy for horror lovers. Thanksgiving is not the torture porn of Hostel or Hostel II (both excellent films of that genre), or the exploitation of Knock Knock (Keanu Reeves nailing the part of the victim). Instead, Roth’s latest - and instant classic - takes on such serial killer franchises as Scream and Halloween, and makes Jason and Ghostface seem innocent.
Like every Roth film, the horror maestro knows exactly what he’s doing. Although his style has the subtlety of a razor blade slash across the Achilles tendon, Roth’s limit-pushing is always filled with the kind of dark humor that trigger belly laughs that become a sick pleasure.
I found myself laughing out loud at the most disturbing scenes and wondering “what the hell is wrong with me?” Nothing, actually. It’s Roth’s timing and use of excess that does the trick. In the hands of lesser filmmakers the kind of violence Roth gleefully sprays across the screen would seem vile and repulsive. But Roth understands that excess, if not timed perfectly, would be squandered. He also understands the fine line of why and how excessive violence can create an instant mood of sick humor. It’s either laugh or shudder. Making both happen is Roth’s magic.
The film taking place in Plymouth, MA, the site of the first Pilgrim feast, is Roth’s brilliant irony that serves as the bloodlust backdrop with a serial killer known as The Carver doing exactly that to its town’s residents who exploited the violence that took place in the film’s opening sequence.
Pay no attention to the woke bullshit reviews from the likes of failed Rolling Stone or Vox. Roth certainly doesn’t, nor ever has. This is a ferocious director, cold-blooded in nature, who possesses a skillet that is designed to destroy anything woke. Such a welcoming force as well as relief from the disastrous nonsense of Marvel comics and their ilk.
Starring Patrick Dempsey and Rick Hoffman (Roth’s go-to in the Hostel series), Thanksgiving takes the tranquil moments of family tradition and serves them on a platter with massive chunks of delightful gore.
Enjoy my fine readers, and Happy Thanksgiving!