When it comes to the auteur theory, there perhaps aren’t many signs of it in 21st-century cinema, or at least it’s not as prevalent and piercing as it was back in the 1970s especially. The titans of cinema – Scorsese, Spielberg, Nolan, Scott, Fincher et all – have their style and way of filmmaking, of course, but they have moved with the times as much as the times have moved with them, creating new and expansive ways of filmmaking. Some have the auteur gene, and you could argue that Eli Roth, the splatter-meister responsible for the “torture porn” sub-genre that rocked horror back in the 2000s, is one of them. Sure, he has branched out since those early days – fans are waiting with excitement for next year’s adaptation of the hit video game Borderlands – but he has stepped back into his comfort zone with Thanksgiving, a fun, gory slasher that takes its cue from the fake trailer produced for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse back in 2007.
Plymouth, Massachusetts. A small, tranquil, closely knit town that is gearing up for its Thanksgiving celebrations and mountains of food but not before they all descend upon the local supermarket for those “too good to be true” Black Friday savings. Desperate for those flat-screen televisions and free waffle irons, the residents turn into an angry mob and flood it like a herd of wildebeests, trampling over each other no matter the cost. One year later, to celebrate the new day of thanks, an axe-wielding maniac terrorizes the residents as an act of vengeance for the atrocities and starts to pick them off, one by one
If you loved Hostel and its sequels, as well as Green Inferno and Cabin Fever, then you’ll probably get a huge kick out of Thanksgiving, a film that will certainly make you thankful for much, as well as take a second glance across the dinner table once the turkey is carved and the yams are yamming. It is, pretty much, exactly what it would say on Roth’s tin albeit with a wittier edge and slightly – very slightly – less repugnant edge than some of his previous works. Indeed, with a script by Jeff Rendell from his and Roth’s story, it is by some distance the filmmaker’s most accessible work and one that shows a more mature side than before.
For those curious about how it goes down, don’t fret: there is plenty of blood, guts, viscera, and everything in between that will probably be too much for those of a delicate disposition against it, but those with steelier stomachs won’t go disappointed. The film’s real success, though, is stepping back in time to the 1980s and 1990s era of slasher films, ones that combined horror, comedy, and satire: while Thanksgiving doesn’t have the subtlety or nuance of a Scream, for example, it does say much about our relationship with holidays, the consumerism of it all (the killer’s origins in Black Friday) and the consumption of more than just a stuffed bird or roasted potatoes and that the holidays are more about the buying of cheap things rather than giving thanks. Isn’t life fun in 2023?
2023 | Horror | Sony Pictures Releasing UK | 18 | In cinemas November 17th | Dir: Eli Roth | Patrick Dempsey, Nell Verlaque, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Rick Hoffman, Gina Gershon