Director Eli Roth says there's a much darker, more serious message behind his fun slasher Thanksgiving.
"I love horror movies like Dawn of the Dead, where you're watching the most incredible zombie splatter ever. But then you can look back at what Romero was really saying and his thoughts on consumerism. And there's a lot more to dissect there. What I wanted to do with Thanksgiving is give people a great slasher film. If you think about it, it’s a pilgrim rampaging through a town killing people," Roth explains to GamesRadar+.
"The Thanksgiving dinner when I grew up was like, 'oh, the Native Americans and the pilgrims got together and they had dinner and that was it.' And then you learn, well, the only reason the pilgrims survived was because the natives fed them and taught them how to survive the winter and bury corn and all these tricks so they could get through and survive, which ultimately killed all the Native Americans."
The film comments on the commercialized aspects of Thanksgiving, centering on the family of a wealthy businessman (Rick Hoffman) who owns the Walmart-esque supermarket where a riot breaks out on Black Friday, and takes place in Plymouth Massachusetts, the site of the first pilgrim settlement. Nell Verlaque plays Jess, the daughter of said businessman, who doesn't understand how the town can simply return to its Thanksgiving festivities after the tragedy that occurred.
"The pilgrims just killed [the Native Americans] and took their land. So the holiday itself has become something about colonialism or genocide or the murder of the natives and you think, well, what were we taught? It was [about] being thankful," Roth continues. "And now the Black Friday sales, consumerism – it's Christmas that has invaded the holiday and we all pretend to be thankful and then we run out and kill each other for flat-screen TVs. So there's a lot there. I wanted to give people the kind of horror movie that if some kid wanted to write essays about it, there's plenty there to dissect."
The killer in Roth's slasher is, appropriately, dressed as a pilgrim and dons a mask meant to represent John Carver – the real-life governor of Plymouth who was on the Mayflower ship that ultimately docked in America and created Plymouth Colony. Keeping in theme, each kill is Thanksgiving–inspired – from corn-on-the-cob holders in ear drums to turkey-basted humans.
"I mean, when we were doing our research, we found that the first governor of New Plymouth Colony really was named John Carver," he adds. "And that's history just handing you a gift. If that's not a slasher movie name, I don't know what is. So the fun was rooting it. There are real tunnels. All the police work is real – like everything in the movie, it's based in reality. So that's the fun is coming with all those different themes."
Thanksgiving hits theaters on November 17. For more, check out our list of upcoming movies in 2023 and beyond.