Now that Halloween has ended, horror junkies everywhere are going into withdrawal. The holidays are just around the corner, and it just doesn’t feel right to be watching “Halloween” when the Christmas lights are up. Sure, there’s the occasional horror movie centered around the winter holidays (“Krampus” and “Gremlins” come to mind), but your best bet for getting into the Thanksgiving spirit is to turn on the Hallmark Channel. As a horror fan, though, I’m determined to discover a fun, bloody movie to fill the void — which is why I dredged up four Thanksgiving-themed horror films that may or may not have the makings of new holiday classics.
“Home Sweet Home” (1981)
“Home Sweet Home” follows a dysfunctional family terrorized by a musclebound, PCP-addicted mental patient on the run. The first 40 minutes are consumed by a cast of colorful characters bickering about car trouble, errands and the black sheep of the family, a mime/magician/KISS fan named “Mistake.” The movie starts to pick up when the killer begins picking off members of the family one by one. Or at least, I think he does, because the third act takes place almost entirely in the dark, and it seems there wasn’t money in the budget for lighting. Speaking of low-budget, the majority of the dialogue is poorly dubbed over, and the deaths are made lackluster by amateurish special effects. The only saving grace of the movie is the over-the-top performances by Peter De Paula as “Mistake” and Don Edmonds as the scenery-chewing patriarch of the family. “Home Sweet Home” might be worthy of a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episode, but probably not 85 minutes of your time.
Alone on campus over Thanksgiving break, college student Justine must defend herself from a cult of masked killers in this tense, atmospheric thriller — maybe the only competent Thanksgiving-themed horror film ever made. “Kristy” doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, but director Olly Blackburn (“Donkey Punch”) sets himself apart with a quiet, atmospheric exposition that heightens the eeriness of being alone on such a spacious campus. Unfortunately, once the action gets going, it takes the form of an endless series of cat-and-mouse style chases. The script isn’t always the tightest, and the cyber-based cult at the heart of the film feels more laughable than sinister given the outdated technology (and some very cringe-worthy attempts at text-speak). However, Haley Bennett (“The Girl on the Train”) is a strong enough lead to hold our attention until the final 30 minutes, which are satisfyingly bloody and genuinely chilling. There are other movies that do what “Kristy” does, and they do it better, but “Kristy” is the only one that bothered to do it during Thanksgiving.
“Blood Freak” (1972)
This bizarre sci-fi slasher manages to combine the plots of “The Fly” and “Reefer Madness” to hilarious effect. Down-on-his-luck Vietnam veteran Herschell is taken in by Angel, a religious young woman, and her dope fiend sister, Ann. Herschell immediately becomes addicted to drugs and takes a job at a turkey farm, where he is coerced into eating genetically modified poultry that turns him into a horrifying turkey-man. The film cuts between Herschel wandering around drinking the blood of drug-addicted suburbanites in a paper mache turkey mask and an incoherent sermon delivered by director Brad Grinter about God, fate and the devil’s lettuce. From the wooden acting to the frenetic camerawork to the incomprehensible script, there’s almost nothing good about this movie, but it’s certainly entertaining. If you’re craving an addictively funny, hallucinogenic film, “Blood Freak” might just be the fix you’re looking for. Otherwise, just say no.
“ThanksKilling” begins with the death of an inexplicably topless pilgrim at the hands of a demonic turkey with a tomahawk, and it only goes downhill from there. We follow a group of five stereotypical college kids whose Thanksgiving plans are interrupted by the arrival of a homicidal turkey. The acting is horrendous, and the CGI is laughably bad, although the turkey puppet actually looks pretty good given the $3500 budget. Unlike the more earnest films in this article, this movie is unrepentantly corny and its flaws are clearly intentional. While manufacturing a so-bad-it’s-good movie doesn’t always work, ““ThanksKilling” has become an instant cult classic with lines like “I’ll drink your blood like cranberry sauce” and “Her legs are harder to close that the JonBenet Ramsey case.” The writers don’t always fall on the right side of the line between vulgar and funny, but the script works more often than not. Ultimately, “ThanksKilling” is the closest that the incredibly niche genre of Thanksgiving-themed slashers comes to a movie worth being thankful for.