November can be a tough month for horror fans. With the end of October meaning Halloween’s gone for another year, and slasher movies starring Santa Claus still a few weeks out, our watch lists can seem as dead as the brown leaves crunching underfoot.
So what’s a fiend to do? What seasonally appropriate fare bridges the gap between Michael Myers and Krampus, candy corn and candy canes? I can’t speak for the whole world, but in my neck of the woods (USA, baby) we celebrate Thanksgiving in November. It’s a joyous time of year, full of parades and extended family members saying horrifically racist things. We spend a couple hours ostensibly being thankful for what we have immediately before punching out a stranger in a Walmart because they got the last flatscreen on sale. But hey, there’s football.
Not everyone loves Thanksgiving as much as I do. If you can’t seem to get in the spirit for Thanksgiving, you can always try watching Thanksgiving movies. Admittedly, there aren’t a lot of them. Eli Roth’s Grindhouse trailer for Thanksgiving sadly never became a full feature-length film. There’s Blood Freak, a 70s sleaze film featuring a turkey-headed creature, but isn’t explicitly Thanksgiving-y. And then… there’s ThanksKilling.
ThanksKilling is a 2008 indie horror film about a killer turkey that pursues a group of college kids. It plays like your standard “coeds in the woods” movie, but with the addition of a turkey puppet with a taste for blood. Turkie, the film’s antagonist, is a foul-mouthed fowl (sorry) with a one-liner for every occasion. On a budget of about $3,500, bargain basement practical effects steal the show. There’s a lot of blood in this movie, and I’m just realizing that “there’s a lot of blood in this movie” is the only phrase I need to hear to watch a movie. I’m a man of simple tastes.
If you’ve seen ThanksKilling, or the trailer for it, or know a little about the movie, you might be a little surprised right now. “A $3,500 budget,” you’re hypothetically saying, “that much?” To that I’d respond, “that’s what IMDb said,” and then go on about how much it costs to make a movie even beyond pointing a camera and squeezing a bag of fake blood. There are a lot of moving parts on a film set, both literally and figuratively, and cameras aren’t free. Instead of using too many digital effects, and breaking the viewers’ immersion with Birdemic-level CGI, ThanksKilling revels in its low-budget charm. Where other films might risk trying to do too much with too little, ThanksKilling wears its limitations on its sleeve. I appreciate that.
ThanksKilling plays with the stock characters of a standard coeds-in-the-woods film. There’s the jock, the nerd, the ditzy girl, even an overweight comic relief character. In addition, there’s the town’s sheriff (who sets up one of my favorite gags in the movie) and an ill-fated motorist who takes a chance on a hitchhiker. Many of these characters meet their fates in suitably messy fashions. While the gore in this film isn’t particularly realistic, it’s not for everybody. The violence is played for laughs, but the super squeamish might not find it funny. If you’re reading this site, you’re probably in the clear. I don’t want to spoil anything about this fun little movie, though, so I won’t go in to any more plot details. In short, I’d recommend this movie to anyone who gets a kick out of Troma films.
ThanksKilling runs around twenty minutes shorter than most feature films, and I think it deserves recognition for that. A motivated viewer could watch the entire movie in the morning before going to work. More importantly, ThanksKilling doesn’t overstay its welcome. I’d rather watch a seventy minute movie than a seventy minute movie stretched to fit a hundred minutes.
Is ThanksKilling the greatest movie ever made? I don’t know. I’m not qualified to judge that. Film quality is a subjective thing. You could make an argument for why Wayne’s World 2 is the best movie ever made, and I wouldn’t agree with you, but if it works for you, I’m happy for you. I liked ThanksKilling a lot, and if you like low budget movies with cursing puppets, I think you’ll like this one, too! If you only like slow-burn art films with a message, maybe you can pass on this one. Everyone’s taste is different.
There’s also a sequel to ThanksKilling, titled ThanksKilling 3. You might be scratching your head, so I’ll fill you in: you can’t get ThanksKilling 2. It’s not real. A major plot point in ThanksKilling 3 revolves around the last remaining copy of ThanksKilling 2, a film so bad that almost all copies of it were destroyed. I won’t go too deep into ThanksKilling 3 because strictly speaking, it’s not a horror film. Instead, it’s a surreal fantasy sci-fi black comedy puppet show. I liked it, but of the film’s running time (half an hour longer than the original), only about twenty minutes of it could be considered horror.
I know some horror fans are already diving head-first into Black Christmas, Christmas Evil, Jack Frost, and the Silent Night, Deadly Night films. I respect that. However, I can’t get started on Christmas movies until after Thanksgiving, or I’ll get burnt out by the actual day. Nobody wants to be burnt out before they get to Gremlins. If you’re like me, you might stare at the calendar and say, “Why? Why a whole month between Halloween and Christmas? Get out of here, November.” And then your boss comes along and tells you to get back to work instead of talking to the calendar, again. For people like us, there’s ThanksKilling. It’s not for everyone, and it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is (a no-budget horror movie starring a puppet), but it’s Thanksgiving horror movie, and it deserves recognition for that.
Until Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving actually happens, I’ll watch ThanksKilling.
And then after that, too. I mean, the movie’s only an hour long.