Eli Roth might have taken a side trip into family-friendlier fare via The House With A Clock In Its Walls (and sci-fi with the upcoming Borderlands), but the Hostel filmmaker’s heart has always been dripping with gore; Thanksgiving, his latest_,_ is very much his take on the likes of Halloween and the satirical stabbiness of Scream. The kills are fun, bloody and all very appropriate for the American holiday of overindulgence — corn-cob holders, ovens and an electric carving knife all come into play — but the film itself is really just Roth having fun back in familiar territory. It’s a tad less sadistic than his past work, with a healthier dollop of humour to balance out the liberal splashes of claret.
Born from the trailer Roth cooked up for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse back in 2007, there is naturally more to this, but not all that much. All you really need to know is that a group of fairly terrible people — grasping adults, selfish mean girls and meat-headed jocks — end up either dead or kidnapped over the course of the villain’s vengeful plot.
Most of the focus here is on Nell Verlaque’s Jessica Wright, daughter of Right Mart owner Thomas Wright (Suits’ Rick Hoffman), who must attempt to survive when she finds herself among those targeted. She is one of the few characters who actually has a proper backstory (albeit a dead-mother past borrowed from Scream’s Sidney Prescott and a clutch of other existing characters), and Verlaque does enough to make her likeable by the time she finds herself in real danger. The rest? Largely throwaway, including Patrick Dempsey as the lawman.
Roth knows his way around a set-piece, and together with co-writer Jeff Rendell has set out a solid spread of killer action. Yes, it’s empty entertainment calories, but it’s still tasty enough while you’re watching it.