Killer turkeys, Pilgrims, and murderers abound in our picks of the best Thanksgiving-themed horror flicks to check out this week
Halloween may have come and gone, but most bloodthirsty horror fanatics know that there’s no shortage of scary movies set during Christmas and other winter holidays that they can watch just around the corner. But what many don’t know is that there’s actually a hefty offering of Thanksgiving-themed horror films that exist as well; waiting to be discovered to help fill that void.
In hindsight, maybe having that overfilling Thanksgiving dinner before watching any of these isn’t the best idea. But for those with an iron stomach (or will), who are willing to venture into the weird, the grotesque, and the gory and silly, take a look at our hidden holiday finds. While impossible to match the genocidal horrors that gave birth to this holiday and continue to reverberate to this day, these Thanksgiving horror flicks certainly try.
‘Pilgrim’ (2019) Streaming on Hulu
Hulu’s collaboration with Blumhouse Productions, Into the Dark has thus far delivered two dozen original films. The horror anthology series’ second season had each individual episode / film tackle a singular holiday, and director Marcus Dunstan went after Thanksgiving with Pilgrim. A slow burn that turns into an absolutely wild and gnarly affair, the story follows a mother who invites two actors into her home for an educational Thanksgiving experience. But the “Pilgrims” never break character, and their dedication grows into something disastrous and horrific.
‘ThanksKilling’ (2008) Available on VOD
Look, the name says it all here. Written and directed by Jordan Downey, ThanksKilling is exactly what its poster tells us: “The ultimate low-budget experience”. The film, made on an obvious yet astounding $3,500 budget, follows a demonic killer turkey named Turkie who goes around murdering a group of archetypal college students and anyone else who stands in his way. It’s crude, gross, downright awful, and relentlessly entertaining. There’s a musical adaptation as well as a crowd-funded sequel, just in case you never get tired of Turkie’s insane quips like “You’re about to get stuffed!” or “Nice tits, bitch!” You know what you’re in for with this. Probably not one for the family.
‘Séance’ (2006) Available on VOD
Mark L. Smith has made a name for himself in Hollywood with writing credits on films like The Revenant, Overlord, and The Midnight Sky, but back in 2006 he wrote and directed a small film called Séance that was based on stories from his daughter. But these weren’t the usual bright and cheery stories that come from the imagination of children, instead his daughter would tell Mark about the ghost of the little girl who was haunting her room. The film follows five college students in a creepy old Manhattan dormitory on Thanksgiving break. They hold a séance to rid the place of the ghost of a murdered child who haunts the building. However, instead of getting rid of the ghost, the ceremony only revives the serial killer responsible for her death.
‘The Last Thanksgiving’ (2020) Available on VOD
A cheesy and cheaply gory horror comedy, The Last Thanksgiving is about a family of cannibalistic Pilgrims who attack the staff and patrons of a restaurant that has stayed open for Thanksgiving rather than close for the holiday. It’s a throwback slasher with puns galore, and writer / director Erick Lorinc takes things into the bloody and the absurd in a fearless low-budget rager. The film also manages to surprisingly smart as well.
‘Kristy’ (2014) Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Haley Bennet stars in this gruesome thriller as Justine, a college student who spends her Thanksgiving break almost entirely alone on campus, most everyone else having gone home for the holiday. She suddenly finds herself targeted by a cult of ritualistic killers. Directed by Olly Blackburn and written by Anthony Jaswinski, Kristy deals with religious fanaticism, cyber-threats and much more. Bennet’s performance is also a major highlight.
‘ThanksKilling 3’ (2013) Available on VOD
That’s right, Turkie is back once again, skipping right over a direct sequel in favor of something far more fittingly insane and terrible. ThanksKilling 3, which stars a cast mostly comprised of raunchy puppets, follows Turkie as he carves through the likes of a rapping grandma, a bisexual space worm and their equally ridiculous friends. It’s three times as ridiculous as the first one, with tons of meta humor, disgusting toilet humor, and literally anything else you can think of and then some. Come get your fixin’ of “so bad it’s good”.
‘Addams Family Values’ (1993) Streaming on Netflix
This sequel to the 1991 live-action The Addams Family is far more darkly humorous than its predecessor, making it feel much more fittingly macabre and all the more hilarious for it. While the main plot involves a serial killer marrying Uncle Fester, the film’s most memorable and often-shared story involves the Addams kids, Wednesday (Cristina Ricci) and Puglsey (Jimmy Workman) being sent off to summer camp. The two of them are singled out and bullied by campers and counselors alike for their appearance and personalities, but when Wednesday is cast as Pocahontas and Pugsley is cast as a turkey in the camp’s awful and problematic Thanksgiving play, they see a chance to hatch their revenge.
‘The Feast’ (2021) Available on VOD
While not technically a Thanksgiving film, The Feast nonetheless revolves around a dinner party gone horrifically wrong, and the timing of its release this holiday week can’t be mere coincidence. Directed by Lee Haven Jones, the film follows a young woman serving wealthy and privileged guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests do not realize they are about to eat their last supper. Things begin to unravel, and the film becomes a challenging and unabashedly disgusting horror masterpiece that’s one of the year’s most smartly conceived, plainly effective thrills.
‘Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County’ (1998)
A larger-budget version of the infamous The McPherson Tape, itself a precursor to the found footage genre, this pseudo-documentary horror was met with a similar reception to Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast. As in, upon watching this film of a teenager named Tommy (Kristian Ayre) in Lake County, Montana, who is making a home movie of his family’s Thanksgiving dinner when they are attacked and ultimately abducted by extraterrestrials, many viewers thought what they were seeing was actually real. Shown in documentary style, the film is shown as video footage of the “actual” events, interspersed with interviews with UFO experts and the like.
‘Blood Rage’ (1987) Available on VOD
This splatter film involves a pair of identical twins (Mark Soper) who lock horns again at a remote apartment complex over Thanksgiving. One of the brothers has escaped from a psychiatric institution after allegedly killing a man in cold blood years earlier. He has some weird oedipal complex that sends him into a murderous rage whenever he finds his mother (Louise Lasser) with a new man, and this time around, he discovers that his mother is engaged to the owner of the apartment complex. Brutal and funny with extremely memorable performances, Blood Rage is definitely a must-see Thanksgiving horror pick.