When did Thanksgiving turn into Black Friday Eve? Honestly, prior to 2002 or so, if you’d asked me to define Black Friday, I’d have scratched my head and tried to remember which historical atrocity was commemorated by that name. I’d have never guessed that Black Friday was day set aside for herds of aggressive shoppers to stomp minimum-wage earning store clerks to death in a frantic stampede to big, big savings.
In case you are somehow unaware, Black Friday is the sudden fever that lets you know that the sickness of Christmas is on its way. Christmas may only come once a year, but it has grown into a season unto itself, and growing longer every year with the stores setting out the ornaments, greeting cards, and all manner of Currier and Ives flavored bibs and bobs that, despite their Chinese origin, seem to be traditional enough. Black Friday is Christmas’ blitzkrieg on Thanksgiving. Once it swallows that venerable holiday there will be no stopping it. It’ll demand All Saints Day, Halloween and Veteran’s Day in the fall before opening a second front, swallowing Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Easter. It’s time to take a stand! It’s time to draw a line in the snow and say “This far and no further!” It’s time to toss out the shopping circulars and remember the justification for the mastication! It’s in the spirit of standing up for the little holiday that I bring you the one and only horror film dedicated to “Turkey Day.” Today is set aside for ThanksKilling. Up yours, Bill ÒReilly!
What’s the movie about? I’m glad you asked. In the year 1500, the Indian Chief Feather Cloud was grievously insulted by some pilgrims living in the settlement of Crawberg. In retaliation, he used necromancy to create a killer turkey, which was sent on a murderous quest to spill the blood of white men. Further, this murderous turkey would return to exact further revenge every five hundred and five years. We flash forward to modern times. The Killer Turkey is revived when a dog pisses on the tiny totem pole that marks the spot where it lies buried. The Killer Turkey begins its murderous rampage, with includes terrorizing a jeep-load of college kids featuring the following stereotype characters: The Jock, The Fat Guy, The Nerd Guy, The Good Girl and The Slutty Girl, who, heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, camp in the woods near the Killer Turkey’s burial ground. Killer Turkey mayhem ensues.
Jordan Downey and Kevin Stewart must have been heavily influenced by slasher films from the 1980’s because ThanksKilling feels like a low budget direct-to-video film from that era, so much so that I stopped the movie just to check. Nope. It was made in 2009. Huh. Okay. I resumed the movie. This not to say that having the look and feel of a 1980’s direct-to-video slasher film is a bad thing. I rented more than my fair share of Vestron Videos back in the day, and I think that ThanksKilling has the texture for which Downey and Stewart were aiming. Though it’s essentially a 1980’s-styled slasher movie, ThanksKilling is played for laughs, after all, where else can you take a movie about a five hundred-year-old Killer Turkey?
Humor and horror are both subjective. What is funny or scary to one person may not be funny or scary to another. There are comedic moments (at least I assume that they are supposed to be comedic moments) that work and others that I thought fell flat. The idea of a Killer Turkey hand-puppet, that looks a little like Freddy Kreuger, ax murdering people amuses me, but its uttering profanity and the expected bad puns did not. It’s a no-win situation for ThanksKilling in that respect, as the puns are obvious and total eye-rollers, but their absence would be just as noticeable given the sort of movie we get here. There are a few bits that border on the surreal, such as the Killer Turkey making a disguise or the Killer Turkey hitching hiking – those are the elements that worked for me.
Even though the movie clocks in at a short 66 minutes, it still feels a little long towards the end, even the actors at that point seem anxious to wrap it up. I suspect that this stretching of the end game, as well as the bad acting, is deliberate rather than a feature of bad filmmaking, as both elements are in keeping with the spirit and feel of the sort film that is being parodied here. There are also a few brief moments where the acting is naturalistic and subtle rather than forced and self-conscious. Again, I’m just guessing.
The effects were awesome. The Killer Turkey looks pretty much like the picture on the cover or the poster, though it’s stiff and non-expressive. It’s a cheap puppet, which actually improves the comedy value in my opinion. Most of the splatter is done like an old school slasher film and looks true to source genre, excepting a few really painful CGI bits. Even the title music has a very old school feel to it.
So it’s a good movie, yes? Erm . . . yes and no. ThanksKilling was shot on a budget of roughly 3,000 USD in ten days by two filmmakers who are between their junior and senior years in college. Given the time and resources they had to make their movie and that they managed to make the film they had in mind from the outset (as far as I can tell) is impressive. That the end result is even watchable is more amazing. So in that respect, yeah, it’s a good movie. I will say that it’s not a movie for everyone. The Housecat thought it was the worst movie she had ever seen. My friend V.B. also hated it. I expect that if you like Troma films or really black off-beat comedy, you’ll enjoy ThanksKilling. I found it an entertaining dose of holiday fear! Gobble, Gobble.
Ryan E. Francis