It's nearly time for people all over the country to gather together over a meal and give thanks for the good things in their lives, or at least for the chance to gorge themselves on huge amounts of waist-tightening foods. Quite a few of us will find ourselves sprawled out afterward on a couch going into a carb- and turkey-induced food coma, looking for something to watch other than the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.
Being as it's a holiday, one would think that there would be quite a few horror movies with connections to Thanksgiving — after all, the genre seems to have eagerly embraced almost every other holiday. There's a whole subgenre of Christmas-themed horror films, Mother's Day has been used, April Fools, and of course Halloween. After the success of that particular classic, filmmakers raced to churn out slasher films with a holiday setting, and most of the major ones were quickly gobbled up. But not Thanksgiving, at least not in any major way. Here's what I found. Be warned — some of these trailers aren't work-safe, or intended for sensitive viewers.
5. Blood Rage (1983)
This mostly forgotten slasher movie was filmed in 1983, but didn't see the light of day until 1987 when the slasher genre was waning. This sordid tale involves two twins, one of whom is a psychopath who slashes the throat of a victim at a drive-in movie, and then frames his good twin for the deed. The innocent brother gets sent away to a mental asylum until several years later when he escapes during.... Yep. Thanksgiving. His escape inspires a new cycle of murderous mayhem.
This is one of the countless slasher flicks that filmmakers scrambled to make once the formula was popularized by successful films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th, and as such, it's pretty awful. None of the films on this list are "good" by any conventional standard, but I won't let that stand in the way of my enjoyment of its cheap thrills. Horror fans tend to be dedicated, and this movie has even received a deluxe release edition including all three (!) versions of this semi-holiday killfest. Go figure.
4. Home Sweet Home (1981)
This is another film that tried to ride the coattails of the slasher movie craze of the early 1980s, and it's also terrible. It stars Jake "Body By Jake" Steinfeld as a hulking escaped PCP-crazed mental patient who carjacks a victim before running over an old woman in the film's first few minutes. Somewhere on the outskirts of town, a group of friends and family have gotten together to celebrate Thanksgiving at a fancy ranch house, and of course the murderous escapee is intent on ruining their holiday. Home Sweet Home is pretty tedious, and none of the kills in this are graphic enough to make it worthwhile for cheap thrills the way many other bad early '80s slasher films are, but it does take place on Thanksgiving! There's one teenage character who is a KISS fan, and that guy wanders around in makeup badly playing his electric guitar through a portable amplifier. He's irritating enough to make a viewer smile when he's knocked off, so that might be worth watching the film for. Okay, no it isn't. But it's something.
3. Blood Freak (1972)
Wow. Describing Blood Freak never seems to really do it justice, but essentially it's the tale of a guy who falls in with a fast crowd that enjoys casual sex and drug use, and who then gets a sweet job working at a turkey farm. Well, it would be sweet, except that he's exposed to genetically altered turkey meat, and is soon transformed into a blood-sucking mutant turkey monster who prowls around looking for victims. Since he's already addicted to drugs, Turkeyman begins feasting on the blood of other addicts to get his quick fix to pleasuretown. At the end of this delightful turkey-based nightmare, we discover that the whole thing was a marijuana-induced hallucination, making this one of the weirdest anti-drug films I've ever seen. So what's Blood Freak got to do with Thanksgiving? Nothing directly. But it's got a huge, drug-addicted turkey monster running around drinking blood, and that's worth something.
2. Thankskilling (2008)
This film is about as low budget and campy as it gets, featuring a terrible puppet turkey named, appropriately enough, "Turkie." What to say about this movie...Well, a topless "Pilgrim" woman is killed at the very beginning by an evil turkey puppet that then quips sarcastically about her breasts. Basically, this is a horror comedy made for fans of terrible movies, and it has some appeal on that level. It's also one of the very few horror movies in which Thanksgiving is specifically the reason for all the bloodshed, since Turkie seeks vengeance against his victims on behalf of all the turkeys killed for the holiday. It's awful, but fun if you're one of the aforementioned fans of terrible horror films. This was made for less than $4,000, so people are left to draw their own conclusions about what that means in regards to quality. There's also a sequel, but I haven't seen it. I hear it involves puppets also, and that's usually a plus.
1. Thanksgiving (2007)
Oh how I wish this was a real feature film, because the faux trailer for Eli Roth's holiday slasher film that was included in the Grindhouse movie looks like the Thanksgiving horror film fans really deserve. The trailer (which is in no way work-safe) is a perfect take on the trashy '80s slasher films so many of us horror movie fans know and love. Why was this film never really made by someone way back then? I have no idea, because it sure looks like it would be fun. A lot of other people apparently think so, too, because a feature-length version has been rumored to be in production for years. That may be more wishful thinking than anything else, but this is a film that should happen.
While some people might not associate Thanksgiving with the types of movies that are on this list, for the hardcore horror fans out there who appreciate some obscure "treasures," there are a few holiday-themed films worth considering as we begin to regret eating that extra slice of Aunt Mabel's pumpkin pie. None of these are good, but that doesn't mean they aren't fun.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE...
Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.