#Movies

Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving Slasher Is Not Joking Around

“We spent a long time thinking about ‘how are we going to turn this into a feature film,’ and we realized that we were just writing filler scenes between the moments in the trailer,” Roth says. “That’s not really a great way to go about writing a scary movie.” For more than a decade, the Grindhouse trailer felt as much like a trap as it did an opportunity. That is until Roth had an idea that opened the movie up: What if the faux Thanksgiving trailer was for a movie that actually existed—and his new film would be the 2020s reboot?

Thanksgiving was a movie that was made in 1980 for real,” Roth explains while a laugh begins to gather across the corners of his eyes. “It was so violent and offensive that the day it was released, every print was destroyed; they were ordered burned, and every print was confiscated, thrown in a pile, and incinerated because it was the most offensive movie ever made… The scripts were also burned, the director went into hiding and disappeared, never to be heard from again, and the only thing that survived was the trailer.”

Suddenly, Roth and Rendell had the freedom to make a slasher that was still a throwback to the shlock of their youth, but one which wasn’t beholden to replicating what they put together over a weekend in 2006. It could be a 2023 movie with 2023 concerns. It could even have different kills.

“When I’m recreating it with a budget, I’m going, ‘Man, we can’t get outdone by the trailer,’” Roth says. “And what if I come up with something that’s more sick, more twisted, and more crazy? [For some kills] if we can’t do it better than the trailer, we’ve got to do something different.”

The result is something that, intriguingly, hits a little closer to home for its director. In the grander sense, this is because Thanksgiving is homing in on the modern world, commenting on how what once was a holiday for family gatherings and good cheer has been co-opted by commercialism and turned into something ugly: Black Friday, long lines, and consumerism as bloodsport. Yet by setting Thanksgiving around Plymouth, Massachusetts—the final landing site for the Mayflower in 1620 and near where Roth grew up—the filmmakers opened up one of the core elements of a traditional slasher movie; it has a complex mythology and backstory.

Traditionally, a classic slasher’s mythos deals with something in the main characters’ immediate past, a crime or traumatic event that happened years ago with secrets that will not stay buried. Michael Myers killed his sister in that house over there! But in Thanksgiving, Roth was able to expand on the idea of a shared history by making it about the holiday itself.

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