Hollywood has had a long standing tradition of taking holidays & special events and then using them as a backdrop for horror. Of course this craze began with the immortal HALLOWEEN which not only inspired its own sequels, but countless other slashers tied to a particular date on the calendar. FRIDAY THE 13TH, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, GRADUATION DAY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, NEW YEARS EVIL, and MOTHER’S DAY are all examples of this trend. Christmas inspired numerous blood-soaked entries as well, my favorite being the controversial SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. There was even a film titled THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN (which I guess sounds a lot more ominous than “November 1st”) that had absolutely nothing to do with Carpenter’s classic while cleverly riding its coat-tails.
During Quentin Tarantino’s fabulous GRINDHOUSE films, viewers were treated to some equally entertaining fake trailers specifically designed to compliment this era. While I enjoyed them all, I’d have to say that my favorite was THANKSGIVING directed by Eli Roth. Not only does it pay homage to the 80′s holiday slasher craze, it also brings to light one of its most glaring omissions; the Thanksgiving holiday!
So for those horror geeks out there, like myself, who are discouraged that they’ll have nothing to watch but football during Thanksgiving weekend, here are a few horror movies that have at least a passing connection to our upcoming “National Day of Thanks” – though its doubtful these “turkeys” will illicit much in the way of thankfulness!
THANKSKILLING – A fairly new film with a great title! I was thrilled to actually streamline this movie via Netflix last weekend. Thrilled, that is, until I actually sat down to watch it. The film opens in 1621 with a close-up of a well endowed pilgrim woman’s bare breasts as she runs (bounces) in terror. Soon she is overcome by a giant turkey wielding an axe! Yes, you read that correctly. Turning the Thanksgiving holiday completely on its ears, the turkey carves the pilgrim while proclaiming, ”Nice tits, bitch!” It gets progressively worse from here. The turkey monster makes his way to our modern world and quickly begins hacking up the local yokels. Outside of a porno, you’ll be hard pressed to find acting and production values so terrible. In the actors defense, however, I’m not sure even Meryl Streep could deliver these lines with any degree of credibility. I made it through about 20 minutes before having to call it quits. David A. told me he made it slightly further before also shutting it off (and we generally like bad movies). “What part made you finally give up?” I asked him. ”The turkey monster had sex with a girl and then announced that she’d just been “stuffed,” he replied. Poetry….sheer poetry.
HOME SWEET HOME - Here we actually do have an 80′s slasher that takes place on Thanksgiving! The setting is a ranch out west where a “Lou Ferigno” looking killer stalks a group of mismatched dinner guests. Most of these folks include horny adults with a couple of neglected children thrown in for that holiday family feel. I say neglected because at one point the little girl gets so tired of waiting for the self-absorbed, hedonistic adults to serve up dinner, she ends up grabbing the bird whole and devouring it underneath the table! Her older brother, on the other hand, is less concerned with food. Wearing KISS-like make-up while jamming out on his guitar, this Paul Stanley wannabe quickly becomes the film’s most memorable (and irritating) character! The cast would no doubt agree as he often enjoys popping out of nowhere, interrupting everyone’s sexual activities with his musical riffs. While I didn’t recognize the chords, you can be sure judging by everyone’s reaction it wasn’t “Let’s put the X in Sex.” Some hilarious death scenes make this a passable slasher, though certainly not befitting a major holiday! California is just not a state one should choose when trying to create a “fall-like” atmosphere and it isn’t long before the holiday gets lost completely……along with most viewers.
BLOOD FREAK – While not about the actual holiday, this film does utilize its most endearing symbol; the turkey. THANKSKILLING wasn’t the first movie to feature an over-sized, turkey monster. Back in the early 1970′s an eccentric film maker named Brad F. Grinter created BLOOD FREAK! Grinter was an interesting sort of fellow. He was a dedicated nudist who was also staunchly anti drugs. He was particularly opposed to marijuana which, despite the presence of a blood thirsty monster, is the true source of evil in this film. A young biker gets enticed by an attractive girl who turns him on to weed. After a heavy night of partying, he soon finds himself a walking turkey monster who craves the blood of addicts. Grinter breaks up the film by making several appearances as its narrator. While he clearly dislikes the cannabis plant, he apparently has no qualms regarding tobacco. Chain smoking throughout his diatribe, he can barely open his eyes at the camera amid the wafts of smoke. His banter, aside from being damn near unintelligible, makes absolutely no sense even when you can hear him. Ultimately he’d have made a much stronger anti-drug message had he admitted to partaking in it shortly before filming!
THE MUTILATOR – This slasher never mentions Thanksgiving directly but takes place during “Fall Break” (a hilariously campy, yet catchy song played in the film’s beginning) and I can’t think of why any school would “break” during fall unless it included this holiday. A group of college kids decide to spend their time away from class at a friends family boathouse, where they can partake in what any other self respecting group of horror victims would; lots of drinking and sex! Unfortunately, one of their classmate’s is carrying a dark family secret and this results in the group slowly being picked off one by one. As far as 80′s slashers go, I actually do enjoy this one. All the essential slasher elements are present and the film is far from boring. Makes for a great “Terror on Tequila” if you’re with the right group and definitely true to its genre. If only they had utilized the Thanksgiving holiday directly as opposed to some generic “fall break!”
THE GIANT CLAW – Nothing to do with the holiday at all, yet still a Thanksgiving favorite of vintage horror fans and hosts alike. THE GIANT CLAW actually comes attached to a equally large bird (every bit as dignified in appearance as an actual turkey) that comes from some “anti-matter galaxy.” I listened to the scientist in the film try to explain this phenomena and still don’t get it! One of the all time campiest entries in the 50′s giant monster genre, you can’t help but smile when you watch it. And there is so much to love! The asinine banter between the pre-Mulder/Scully-like main characters, the annoying narrator (who like BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS was inserted to make up for a lost soundtrack), and that BIRD! That absolutely, hilarious looking bird the filmmakers so generously show us almost immediately after the movie starts! Pop in this cult favorite after your holiday meal and indulge in some mindless entertainment while your body digests……if you doze off to sleep, you’ve got nothing to feel ashamed about.