Guess Who's Coming To Dinner: Eli Roth's Thanksgiving (2023) - Reviewed

Images courtesy Spyglass Media Group


Eli Roth's childhood dream of a holiday horror film comes to fruition this week with his undeniably funny horror slasher satire based on his 2007 Grindhouse trailer. After years of toiling with the idea, the director gets his way with one of the most brutal and gory slice and dice films of 2023.

Thanksgiving is a love letter to a time when hack and slash ruled the video stores, midnight movies, and drive-ins all across this great nation. His return to the genre is an amplified send-up that doesn't require its audience to think. It just wants them to laugh out loud, recoil at the nastiness, and cower in fear of this new slasher king, John Carver, a refreshing on-screen baddie that will 100 percent spawn a bevy of sequels. 

After his Cabin Fever, Hostel films, and the cannibalistic Green Inferno, Roth tried his hand at the thriller genre with Knock Knock and a remake of Death Wish. Now, he's comfortably back home where he undoubtedly belongs, spewing blood and guts all over the screen, pushing his talents where they can be used to their fullest capacity. Thanksgiving is like returning home again with its calculated effort to mix '80s style murder movies with targeted commentary on social media, technology's wrath and a perfectly rendered look at modern culture's obsession with material things.  

Roth has never been one to cower away from the offensive. And Thanksgiving seriously goes for the throat with its comedic treatment of the human body as a meaty target for pain, suffering and sheer terror. The kill count may not be large but the deaths all leave a mark. The deaths are creative and undoubtedly call back to classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and more. I can say this with a mild smirk and tongue firmly planted in cheek, this is the first inspired work from Roth since his welcome party with Hostel. And the release timing couldn't be any more perfect: a post-Halloween/pre-Thanksgiving slasher flick is exactly what the world needed. 

The only aspect that may be a letdown was that the original fake trailer promoted a grindhouse style b-movie with absolutely no budget and a grungy film presentation. This is not that in the slightest. It's glossy. It's nice looking and doesn't have any texture. This is like a riff on the Scream movies that doesn't play it safe at all. Thanksgiving definitely leans hard into its slasher influences and pays tribute to the '80s throughout, still lingering on the final girl premise. And fortunately for audiences, it all works. The practical gore effects are hands down some of the best of the year. 

John Carver is a perfected reintroduction to the slasher sub-genre that reinforces exactly what drew people to these movies in the first place. There are teenagers in trouble. And someone is going to punish them. Eli Roth wins this round.