Eli Roth’s Grindhouse horror flick ‘Thanksgiving’ fires up production north of Oshawa and Hamilton


Published March 21, 2023 at 8:39 pm

The title card of the Thanksgiving short - via Dimension Films.

Horror aficionados have a lot to be thankful for this year with the long-awaited production of Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, the feature-length adaptation of his 16-year-old fake Grindhouse trailer.

Roth, best known as the creator of the Hostel series, has teased his Thanksgiving slasher since 2007. The project began as a fake trailer run before Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ultraviolent masterpiece Grindhouse.

The Grindhouse project was billed as an old-school splatter-fest double feature on release. It featured Tarantino’s Death Proof and Rodriguez’s Planet Terror.

The first film starred Kurt Russell as the homicidal Stuntman Mike trying to crash his car into a group of women on a road trip. The second followed a Rose McGowan-led ensemble’s attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Ahead of their double feature Tarantino and Rodriguez featured several fake trailers; Rodriguez’s Machete, Rob Zombie’s Nicolas Cage-starring Werewolf Women of the SS, Edgar Wright’s Don’t, Canadian Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun, and Roth’s Thanksgiving.

Roth and Wright, then fresh off Hostel and Shaun of the Dead respectively, wanted in after Rodriguez showed them his Machete trailer. Zombie joined later just before work on his Halloween reboot while Eisener’s was selected by contest.

Thanksgiving was primarily inspired by the Canadian cult-classic Black Christmas (1974), often hailed as the first slasher film, as well as other holiday-themed horror films.

“We were huge slasher-movie fans and every November we were waiting for the Thanksgiving slasher movie. We had the whole movie worked out: A kid who’s in love with a turkey, and then his father killed it, and then he killed his family and went away to a mental institution and came back and took revenge on the town,’ Roth later told Rolling Stone.

The trailer followed a killer, dressed as a Pilgrim (Roth’s friend Jeff Rendell), as he massacres a town celebrating the holiday while hunted by the town Sheriff (The Terminator‘s Michael Biehn).

Over the years, two of the other trailers, Machete and Hobo, have been adapted into feature-length films. Roth teased his trailer would get the same treatment for years, but never quite set the table for it.

Instead he went on to direct horror films Hostel II, The Green Inferno, Knock Knock (starring Keanu Reeves), Death Wish (with Bruce Willis) and his first and so far only PG-13 film The House with the Clock in its Walls.

Patrick Dempsey on the set of Thanksgiving in Port Perry – via The Dempsey Hub.

He jumped recently into more mainstream studio fare with the upcoming video game adaptation Borderlands. Production of Borderlands wrapped in June and Roth announced the next project he would cook up, Thanksgivingin January.

In March, Roth announced via instagram that production had kicked off on March 21. The post features the Pilgrim’s axe, with which all will be carved, sitting in a director’s chair.

Township of Scugog Director of Public Works Carol Coleman confirmed production was underway in Port Perry, sharing some pictures of Roth directing scenes around the Thanksgiving parade. The parade, while initially joyous, takes a gruesome turn in the trailer when the Pilgrim arrives to “scare the stuffing” out of the town.

The day before, Coleman shared more set pictures featuring stars Patrick Dempsey (taking over as the Sheriff) and Addison Rae.

Meanwhile Rae confirmed via TikTok that production was also underway in Waterdown High School, part of the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.

Thanksgiving still needs some time in the oven so production will continue over the coming weeks.

Stills and poster via Dimension Films.

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