Eli Roth Finally Makes the Film Grindhouse Promised Over 15 Years Ago
DIRECTED BY ELI ROTH/2023
Eli Roth’s latest venture into horror, Thanksgiving, takes a stab at turning the seemingly benign American holiday into a blood-soaked spectacle. The concept, born from a trailer in the 2007 Grindhouse film, promises a twisted take on the festive season, one that embraces the dark history and odd traditions associated with Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving, as a holiday, has often been overlooked in the realm of horror, primarily due to its exclusivity to the United States. But on the other hand, it’s a holiday based on an eventual genocide of Native Americans, that’s celebrated with the mass genocide of turkeys and the imagery is filled with people wearing creepy 17th century clothing, so it’s kind of perfect for a horror. Roth, however, seems undeterred by the market challenges and sets out to exploit the eerie potential lying beneath the surface of this seemingly harmless celebration with a dark past.
The film’s biggest strength lies in its atmospheric portrayal of the fall season in the northeast. Roth masterfully captures the essence of autumn, with crisp leaves underfoot and the air thick with an impending sense of dread. It’s a setting that, despite the film’s flaws, manages to evoke a unique and unsettling ambiance.
The movie’s tone, however, becomes a point of contention. Roth attempts to strike a delicate balance between horror and comedy, but the result is a jumbled mess that often feels more abrasively annoying than effectively chilling. The decision to infuse the narrative with a barrage of silly taglines and unnecessary references to past horror movies weighs the film down, making it feel cluttered and disjointed.
Nevertheless, Thanksgiving manages to redeem itself with its gruesome and creative kills. The horror elements, while marred by the uneven tone, showcase Roth’s talent for crafting gnarly and memorable death scenes. He even resists the urge to simply recreate the trampoline scene from the original trailer beat-for-beat and builds on it in a visceral way. These deaths juxtaposed to a festive celebration creates an overall eerie tone.
While Thanksgiving is far from perfect and suffers from a lack of cohesive tone, it’s undeniably a treat for horror enthusiasts. The film’s flaws may deter some viewers, but those willing to overlook its shortcomings will find a gory feast of inventive kills and a unique take on a holiday that has long been ignored in the horror genre. For some, Thanksgiving may even become a yearly tradition, albeit one wrapped in the blood-soaked trappings of Eli Roth’s distinctive vision.