‘Thanksgiving’ Review – New Holiday Slasher Carves Up a Gory Feast for Horror Fans

After 16 years, Eli Roth finally expands his faux Grindhouse trailer into feature form in Thanksgiving. Instead of building his quintessential slasher around the grainy Grindhouse anesthetic, however, he brings the classic-style slasher into the modern world. It results in a holiday horror effort that captures the lean, mean, and gory spirit of early aughts horror. 

Borrowing a page from the golden era of slashers, Thanksgiving begins with an inciting tragedy: a Black Friday riot. What starts as a warm holiday gathering quickly gives way to a big box store bloodbath when Jessica’s (Nell Verlaque) friends sneak ahead of the masses gathering outside. While the teens mostly walk away unscathed, the event leaves Plymouth scarred. One year later, not everyone has moved on. Jessica and her friends attempt to reconnect for the holidays and move past the harrowing events, but a killer named John Carver won’t let them. 

Roth, along with co-writer Jeff Rendell, eschews the conventional cold open kill to set up the lengthy inciting event. Though not before establishing the visual language of a slasher, POV shot and all. That camerawork and telltale signs help establish all the key players, from victim to suspect, before the vicious Black Friday ensues, courtesy of masked pilgrim John Carver.

Thanksgiving 2023

While the Final Girl harbors all the requisite classical traits to broadcast her survival odds from miles away, Thanksgiving takes its time trying to instill audience investment and rooting interest in Plymouth itself. The Final Girl and her friends are at the top of John Carver’s holiday plans, but Roth ensures the New England town has vibrant personality. Part of that comes from production designer Peter Mihaichuk’s work throughout numerous fun and inventive set pieces, and much of that also stems from the colorful performances by the supporting cast, including notable talents like Gina Gershon and Patrick Dempsey. Many of whom, of course, serve as fodder for John Carver’s gruesome murder spree.

There’s an unexpected rhythm to Thanksgiving. After one brutal first act, the second act feels relatively tame for an Eli Roth horror movie, though there’s no shortage of entrails along the way. A temporary reprieve for stakes and story building, to be sure, but also a preparation for the high octane, gory main course Roth serves up here. Each death brings pain and bloodletting in delightfully mean-spirited, suspenseful ways. The gore effects heighten the creativity of the kills and the gleefulness of John Carver committing them.

It’s worth noting that John Carver’s design is simple and eye-catching, and he’s voiced by Adam MacDonald (“Slasher,” Pyewacket).


The slasher formula doesn’t get reinvented here, so following the clues will likely lead you to the right destination. It doesn’t help that a bland central love triangle muddies some of the suspects and red herrings. It’s a minor issue because Thanksgiving isn’t whodunnit but a bloody blast of a classic slasher. 

Bringing Thanksgiving into a contemporary setting is an asset here. All of the fake trailer’s highlights get woven in or repurposed in organic ways, but now there’s a meaty subtext (but mostly text) to the holiday’s history that presents a perfect setup for a slasher. 

Like curating the perfect holiday feast, Roth orchestrates a vicious, thrilling, and raucously entertaining slasher with a showstopper finale. It makes for a satiating feast for the horror fan this time of year, and it’s all but sure to become a new holiday horror classic. 

Thanksgiving carves its way into theaters on November 17, 2023.

4 out of 5 skulls

The post ‘Thanksgiving’ Review – New Holiday Slasher Carves Up a Gory Feast for Horror Fans appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.