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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

Hyper-Violence and Belly Laughs: What to Expect from Thanksgiving (2023)

Eli Roth’s new film Thanksgiving (2023) tells the story of a murderous slasher dressed as a pilgrim terrorizing a Massachusetts town after a Black Friday mob ends in death the year before. Roth’s film is equal parts hilarious and hyper-violent. I spent much of my time in the theater, hiding behind my hands. 

A  girl looks at her phone, a man sneaks up behind her

Eli Roth is known for films like Hostel (2005), Cabin Fever (2002), and Grindhouse (2007). Also, in 200, he made a short film called Thanksgiving, which appears in Grindhouse as one of the fake trailers. The short is very similar in some ways to the feature. 

I had very low expectations for this film, and while I think it’s not entirely my cup of tea, there are some very interesting elements to discuss. 

For one, I was worried when I saw the trailer for this. A Thanksgiving-themed horror movie with a killer Pilgrim seemed like the perfect storm for a problematic and tone-deaf film. But Roth is able to balance this well. He pokes fun at the roots of the holiday itself and exaggerates the commercialism of holiday shopping in a perfectly hilarious way. 

The pilgrim holds an axe

The other note is that Thanksgiving (2023) is incredibly violent. Which I stand against. However, I knew what I was getting into after seeing the trailer. One scene, however, was incredibly upsetting for several reasons. Without spoiling the film, the scene drags on in excruciating detail as a woman is killed in a horrifying way. Not only did I find this scene culturally insensitive, it was very difficult to watch. Thematically, I understand why this scene exists. But it could have been paired down quite a bit. 

This film stars Patrick Dempsey, Gina Gershon, Nell Verlaque, and Ty Olsson. The performances are great. 

A cheerleader jumps on a trampoline

Beyond its humor, this film really succeeds as a classic who-done-it. You spent the entire film trying to find out who the Pilgrim is and what motivates them. 

Overall, if you can withstand violent films better than I, Thanksgiving (2023) delivers in a lot of ways. It’s a fun, seasonal watch with a whole lot of murder.

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