There are many types of films in the horror genre, but there’s one that most horror fans will inevitably have a soft-spot for! That is, of course, the holiday-themed slasher. We’ve got Halloween for, well, Halloween, Black Christmas for Christmas, obviously, and now we have The Last Thanksgiving for … you get it.
Before you get ahead of yourselves, The Last Thanksgiving isn’t actually a direct comparison to Halloween or Black Christmas as it is significantly lacking in the same polished production values serious and tension-inducing tone and atmosphere of those films. But thankfully, it’s not trying to be. Instead, The Last Thanksgiving is a tongue-in-cheek, campy, b-movie, Thanksgiving-sploitation slasher flick that aims to address the serious overlooking of Thanksgiving as a cinematic holiday setting.
We meet the caustic and acerbic Lisa-Marie (Samantha Ferrand) who is a college dropout incredulously trying to balance living with her parents, who she doesn’t like, going to work at a local restaurant, with people she mostly doesn’t like, and visiting her boyfriend at the local cinema, who she does seem to like. Fatefully, Lisa-Marie finds herself working on Thanksgiving alongside a veritable who’s-who of stereotypes including a lovestruck gay man, the overly friendly manager, a wheelchair-bound army vet, a sarcastic and bitch goth, two gossipy female chefs and the restaurant’s only customer, a difficult yet surprisingly lovely older lady, played in a rather fun cameo by horror icon Linnea Quigley.
I say fatefully because this conveniently padded out cast of restaurant workers are about to be significantly trimmed down when a family of cannibalistic pilgrims set their sight on the restaurant for their annual ritual, angry at its inhabitants for being open on the most sacred of holidays for them.
What follows is a cacophony of carnage as the unsuspecting workers (and one customer) are slaughtered before they can even begin to fight back accompanied by a multitude of holiday-related puns and workaday workplace banter, particularly from the cannibalistic Brimston family, who always have one eye-roll inducing quip at the ready. There’s a deluge of low-budget, yet impressive practical special effects and gore, as heads are split into two, a previous innocent and innocuous kitchen utensil, the whisk, is used to rip someone’s eye out and poor Linnea Quigley is decapitated.
The story itself is wild, messy and hilarious but stays firmly within the ultra-campy semi-comedic tone that I think is being aimed for, even if it does veer towards being too absurd at times. It also treads a shaky line between handling everything all in good fun to being too offensive and exploitative, especially when it comes to trying to shed some light into the true history of Thanksgiving and how the holiday ultimately stems from the looting and genocide of an entire race of people.
The acting is as hit and miss and messy as the script with performances from almost everyone involved veering all over the place from good to bad, but with a film like this, all of this inevitably adds to the self-aware, incredibly goofy and mostly riotously enjoyable low-budget horror throwback that many of us know and love.
Ultimately The Last Thanksgiving delivers all of the schlocky entertainment you could possibly be looking for to satisfy your late-night, low effort horror cravings because there’s enough blood and gore, ludicrous set-pieces and meta-humour to cover up the film’s misgivings and prevent it from becoming a real turkey. Where it will leave you slightly hungry, however, is with its attempt at political commentary that invariably gets drowned out by the rest of the meal, preventing it from truly earning a place as a centrepiece of the table of holiday-slasher offerings.
You can find more of our Salem Horror Fest 2020 coverage here