American Thanksgiving is scary enough without it coming at you with an axe. But that is exactly what happens in the 2023 horror movie Thanksgiving, where a killer chooses to get revenge on Plymouth, Massachusetts, wearing the face of John Carver, the town’s first governor.
Thanksgiving adheres to the slasher formula while offering fans of the genre something fresh. Reminiscent of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, it gives us over-the-top dark humour, “popular” teens stalked by a killer (including 23-year-old TikTok personality Addison Rae), and an aesthetic that translates well to Noah Kahan’s Stick Season.
Thanksgiving opens on, well, Thanksgiving dinner, but with a wicked twist. Some town residents are ignoring the holiday and are instead waiting for RightMart to open for a Black Friday sale (happening a day early). Thanks to a group of taunting teenagers (including Jessica, the daughter of the store owner) entering the store early, the angry shoppers, hoping to be among the first 100 customers to get a free waffle iron, stampede into the store. This results in a sequence of multiple “accidental” deaths.
The film jumps in time to one year later when the pilgrim-looking killer is tormenting the town. Someone had deleted the Black Friday casualties from the security camera, and the sheriff (played by Patrick Dempsey) works with Jessica to find the footage and stop the killing. The stakes are raised as Jessica and her friends simultaneously receive cryptic Instagram messages through an untraceable phone, soon getting picked off one-by-one.
It’s a great whodunit with goofy layers that make modern-day slashers entertaining. But the real horror is in the opening sequence, where the Black Friday riot ends in tragedy.
I am not the type to shy away from a fun slasher (no matter how gory it is), but the RightMart scene had me cringing away from the screen.
Black Friday is already a controversial American holiday that has spilled over into Canada. We have seen Black Friday mania decline partly thanks to Cyber Monday and partly due to the lack of door-crasher deals. However, it still faces criticism for encouraging mass consumerism and impulse shopping. While I have never seen (or heard) a Black Friday morning quite this horrific, the film plays on the absolute horror that this could happen. Or at least we could imagine it happening.
While Black Friday has died down in the past few years, we still see this kind of stampede due to panic over shootings and fires. More horrifically, we see this kind of tragedy happening at concerts where rushes to the stage end in a mass casualty event. That is the type of mass hysteria that we fear because, like Black Friday, these events are entrenched in greed, materialism, and bad behaviour that capitalism promotes.
Thanksgiving depicts this disturbingly well. And, if you’re like me, you’ll be looking toward a future where no part of a horror movie like Thanksgiving can be rooted in reality.
Communications Coordinator at BCITSA