This holiday season, the entertainment industry is spicing things up with a new addition to the horror genre — Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving. Born out of a childhood dream and years of anticipation, this slasher film is set to leave audiences both horrified and thrilled. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the journey behind the creation of this much-anticipated Thanksgiving horror flick.
Eli Roth, known for his directorial ventures in the horror genre, had a dream that began in his youth growing up in Massachusetts. Together with his childhood friend Jeff Rendell, they were captivated by the idea of creating a slasher film centered around Thanksgiving. Roth reminisces, “We grew up in Massachusetts, where the Pilgrims landed. Thanksgiving, as you can imagine, is a massive deal there.”
The duo’s dream was fueled by the absence of a Thanksgiving-themed horror movie in a genre that boasted entries for nearly every other holiday, from Black Christmas to Halloween. Their dream was not just about any slasher film; it was about crafting a blood-drenched nightmare that would forever alter the perception of Thanksgiving.
From Dream to Nightmare
Decades later, Eli Roth and Jeff Rendell brought their childhood dream to life with Thanksgiving. The film, set in Plymouth, MA, tells the story of a masked killer, dressed as the pilgrim John Carver, terrorizing a group of high school students in the aftermath of a fatal Black Friday riot. Roth explains that the murderer “comes to exact revenge, and the kids have to find out who the killer is before they wind up as a victim of John Carver’s special dinner he’s preparing.”
What started as a dream about a Thanksgiving slasher film eventually became a reality in 2023 with the release of the much-anticipated movie. Roth and Rendell’s initial challenge was to find a compelling story that could sustain a feature-length film. It wasn’t until Roth stumbled upon Black Friday trampling videos, where shoppers crush each other to death in pursuit of holiday deals, that the pieces fell into place. This real-life horror became the fertile ground for the storyline, setting the stage for a unique and thrilling Thanksgiving experience.
A Journey Through Time
The origins of Thanksgiving date back to 2007 when Eli Roth created a fake trailer for the film as part of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse. Roth recalls, “When Quentin said, ‘Do you want to do a fake trailer?’ I said, ‘Oh I got it: Thanksgiving.’ Jeff and I already had the kills ready.” The fake trailer was a gritty and raw teaser that left fans clamoring for more.
While Rodriguez turned his fake trailer into a full-fledged movie with Machete, Roth initially thought they had done the best parts and would never have to make the actual film. However, fans continued to share the trailer, year after year, expressing their desire to see a feature-length version. The challenge for Roth and Rendell was figuring out what the movie would be about, a challenge they eventually overcame with the inspiration drawn from Black Friday chaos.
The Cast and Characters
Thanksgiving boasts a diverse cast, with the likes of Nell Verlaque, Addison Rae, Gina Gershon, and People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive,” Patrick Dempsey. The film introduces a masked killer with a vengeance, wearing the likeness of John Carver, the first governor of Plymouth. As the high school students navigate the aftermath of a deadly Black Friday riot, they become the targets of the killer’s gruesome plans.
For Roth, Thanksgiving represented an opportunity to elevate the visual and performance aspects compared to the original fake trailer. He drew inspiration from classic films, guiding the cast with references and setting a specific tone for the movie. Roth wanted to challenge the cast to deliver performances that would resonate on a deeper level than typical horror films.
While Roth’s most recent venture was the family-friendly The House With a Clock in Its Walls in 2018, he remains a connoisseur of great kill scenes. For Thanksgiving, Roth enlisted the expertise of makeup artist Adrien Morot, an Academy Award winner, to ensure that each kill scene would be a classic in the horror genre. Roth expressed his love for creating visceral and memorable moments, likening it to riding a “bloody bike.”
As Thanksgiving hits theaters, Roth is open to the possibility of expanding the story further. He envisions the film as a potential addition to the slasher film canon, injecting new blood into a genre dominated by iconic characters like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers. Roth acknowledges the need for a movie like Thanksgiving and expresses a desire to continue the series if the audience embraces the film.
Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving is not just a horror movie; it’s a journey from childhood dreams to a blood-soaked reality. With a compelling storyline, a talented cast, and Roth’s signature style, the film promises to carve its own niche in the Thanksgiving movie tradition. As audiences gather for the holiday season, “Thanksgiving” invites them to experience a thrilling and terrifying ride, redefining the way we view this time of gratitude and feasting. If the movie succeeds, we may just witness the birth of a new Thanksgiving tradition — one that involves screams, scares, and a side of horror.