Why There Aren't More Thanksgiving Horror Films Like ThanksKilling

Horror can be broken down into a huge variety of subgenres and themes, and a popular one is to center the story on a major holiday. Christmas has its fair share, including three versions of Black Christmas. My Bloody Valentine is also set during the romantic time of year. Heck, even Friday the 13th has an entire franchise, and it's not even a holiday. Yet, there are so few installments centered around the Thanksgiving holiday. With it that time of year again, let's talk about the underrealized potential of the Thanksgiving horror film.

A modern horror film comes to mind when discussing Thanksgiving, which has a level of cult status appreciation, 2008's ThanksKilling. It tells the story of a cursed turkey murdering college students on Thanksgiving break. The story starts on the first Thanksgiving and wastes no time putting nudity on display. It's a low-budget film that's mostly enjoyable because of how bad it actually is. It even has a sequel funded via a Kickstarter campaign confusingly titled ThankKilling 3, even though there was never a "second" film.  So while it's a somewhat popular Thanksgiving-themed horror film, there really should be more.

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Thanksgiving is a holiday ripe with potential conflict and perfect for a horror movie. Think of movies like Hereditary and The Invitation, where the characters are family or friends brought together to witness a horror show unfold. While those specific movies wouldn't necessarily translate to Thanksgiving, some of their themes absolutely would. The potential horror of a dysfunctional family or a dinner party gone wrong are perfectly set up for Thanksgiving. You're Next might as well be set at Thanksgiving as that would be a good motivator for the family to all get together at the country house in the first place.

Jokes crop up every year about the inherent conflict of a family Thanksgiving that appear to be more prevalent to this particular holiday, even over other family-centric holidays like Christmas. Something about this holiday just puts people on edge, even though they pretend it doesn't. This, of course, doesn't mean that many, if not most people, don't have a lovely time at their Thanksgiving dinner, but horror movies are about the absolute worst version of a situation.

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Thanksgiving horror could also be an opportunity for Indigenous filmmakers to explore the real horrors accompanying the holiday's origins. Thanksgiving is somewhat controversial due to its connection to the colonization of the Americas and its impact on the Native American people. Having the narrative dictated by Indigenous filmmakers would help to avoid the potentially problematic stereotypes that have cropped up in horror films in the past, like the ancient Indian burial ground in The Amityville Horror, but still centering the horror and conflict of the original Thanksgiving in a way not yet explored.

Thanksgiving is a ripe setting for a horror film but is seriously underrepresented compared to other holidays. Thanksgiving has a complicated origin that is prime for horror content, and more modern takes can center on family or friends coming together and creating a high-tension conflict environment. Both versions seem like such an obvious setting for a horror film. Therefore, it's actually quite surprising that there aren't more filmmakers jumping on this vacancy. Hopefully, that will change in the coming years, and maybe one day we can settle in in front of the latest Thanksgiving horror film marathon on the holiday.

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Margaret Lockyer (320 Articles Published)

Margaret Lockyer has a degree in English with an emphasis on Apocalyptic Literature and a double major in History which she earned while playing ice hockey for the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers. She currently works in the Canadian film industry and in her spare time she likes practicing yoga, talking about movies, and petting dogs. You can find her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/margaret-lockyer-msl6

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