LOS ANGELES – Thanksgiving may be a uniquely North American celebration, but the idea of a killer going on a rampage over a major public holiday is universally terrifying.
And that is the premise of Thanksgiving, a campy new slasher flick by American film-maker Eli Roth, who was inspired not just by the turkey-feasting holiday, but also the real-life horror stories from deadly stampedes at Black Friday sales the day after.
Opening in Singapore cinemas on Nov 30, the movie stars Patrick Dempsey, Nell Verlaque and Addison Rae in a story about a group of residents in a small New England town who find themselves being targeted by a masked murderer – perhaps in revenge for a tragedy that occurred at one such stampede.
At a recent screening of the movie in Los Angeles, Roth says the film has been “a long time in the making”.
Its journey to the screen began in 2006, when Roth’s friends – American directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez – were working on Grindhouse (2007), a double feature of a horror comedy and a gory action thriller.
Tarantino asked Roth and other directors to create fake movie trailers to accompany the film, and Roth decided to make one for an imaginary Thanksgiving horror movie – an idea he had been sitting on for a while.
“My best friend (co-writer and producer) Jeff Rendell and I had this idea when we were 12,” says the 51-year-old writer-director.
This was because the two pals had grown up in the late 1970s and 1980s, which Roth describes as the “golden era of holiday slasher movies” – cult horror films such as Halloween (1978), My Bloody Valentine (1981) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984).
“This, to us, was cinema at its peak,” he explains.
As a tribute to those movies, they made a trailer for a fake Thanksgiving film for Grindhouse.
Fans loved it so much, they asked for it to be turned into a real film, but “we couldn’t figure out the movie”, Roth admits.
This was because it was difficult to reverse-engineer the plot from the trailer they had made, which depicts a series of beheadings, stabbings and other violent events.
But Rendell “finally cracked the script”, says Roth, who also starred in the acclaimed war comedy-drama Inglourious Basterds (2009).
And the production company that greenlit the project told Roth they wanted to “redefine what a modern slasher movie can be”, he recalls.
The result is a twist-filled, tongue-in-cheek tale with over-the-top gore and a satirical commentary on consumerism.