One-liners, beak rape and a demonic turkey — yup, this soon-to-be cult classic is the crème de la crème of Thanksgiving horror spoofs. Is that a good thing?
Intro by Phil
“Gobble, gobble, motherfucker!” – Turkie
And with those immortal words, the homicidal bird from Thankskilling thrust his dirty, soulless, 510-year-old self into the cult canon. There really is no better way to describe the gleeful ridiculousness of this comedy/horror — it’s gotten to the point that my ex-roommate and I exchange “gobble, gobble” Tweets each Thanksgiving.
To be perfectly honest, Thankskilling is not a good movie. It knows it’s bad — the review will cover those wink-wink moments and more — and it gleefully embraces absurdity. Like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and most slashers, the plot is of little consequence. Teenagers get in trouble, some complicated backstory is clunkily exposed, people die, a bird puppet rapes people. You know, that old chestnut.
Unlike Rocky Horror, Thankskilling is a new breed of cult film. There are touches of loving homage and outright ridiculousness, but quality control was at an absolute low. Sure, the actors are ridiculously unqualified, yet basic rules of fillmmaking are often ignored and bastardized. This is a weird example of low-budget filmmakers who knew they had no money, added purposeful hints to satirize cheap filmmaking, then still managed to make unconscious mistakes like first-year film students.
All this analysis is much more intense than a film like Thankskilling requires. For fuck’s sake, it’s called Thankskilling and stars a homicidal turkey who curses, smokes and generally acts like Bruce Willis on acid. Actually, the review is sure to include plenty of one-liners. As with Die Hard or The Whole Nine Yards or any other Bruce Willis joint, they might not make sense outside of context. But trust us: If a one-liner is worth repeating here, it’s absolutely hilarious in the world of the film. We judged all potential entries by one criteria: What would John McClane say? (Editor’s note: As I wrote this intro, Chris nonchalantly said he’s never seen Die Hard before. Even Keona has seen Die Hard. Anyway, he’ll see it by the next review, guaranteed.)
The Macabre Bros. Thankskilling drinking game
– Queso with added hot sauce from Belize
– Liquor (your choice — we prefer whiskey, but Jager was the only thing on hand)
Drink for every:
– Kill or death
– Turkie one-liner
– Pair of boobs
– Sex scene (take a shot)
– Turkie and sheriff scene
– Jean Bene Ramsey joke
– Glimpse of the Billy/Darren bromance
– Football analogy
– Time Kristin asks for a lighter
And with that, let’s dig into this shameless, hilarious slice of pure holiday depravity.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind we wrote the following review immediately after playing the drinking game. The Macabre Bros. take no responsibility for any meandering, incoherent thoughts. That’s all on the Jager and Coors.
Chris: “I know an obscure and pretty cheesy punchline…” says Phil as we switch computers to write the blog in the same room for once. We were watching Futurama when the aforementioned cheesy line popped up. Thankskilling is to Thanksgiving as Out Cold is to snowboarding: One-liners, cult cliches and terrible filmmaking bring together a film of…. entertainment.
This film is of little consequence if you are the sort looking for a stimulating and rewarding experience. This film is a film of pure entertainment value and nothing else. As Phil and I were describing the film to friends at the bar, a Bostonian piped in: “Our tradition is to listen to “Alice’s Restaurant” on the radio… It’s played several times a day on each station.” This has become, and will become, a Thanksgiving tradition for Phil and I.
Phil: And why shouldn’t it become a tradition? The more I watch holiday films like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and nearly every Rankin/Bass production, the more I realize mood and unhinged joy are more important than insightful filmmaking. I’m trying my damnedest to avoid high-brow analysis, so all I can do is agree with Chris. This film is not important or meaningful or even worth the bandwidth it requires. We were almost going to skip this review because the film was no longer on Netflix. Pay $3 for digital rental? Hell no.
Truth is, Thankskilling is a guilty pleasure, like queso at 1 a.m. or listening to Panic! At The Disco. I laughed more during this film than any comedy in recent memory, and the laughter was often genuine. As I mentioned in the intro, the folks behind this production tried to downplay their incompetence with in-jokes and self-satire. It works on occasion — the third time Jean Bene Ramsey is referenced manages to still be hilarious — but clunky satire is almost more painful than outright sincerity. Look at a film like Beneath the Mississippi: It suffered from the same lack of professionalism, but it never forced a wink at the audience. That film was played straight, which made it an entirely different experience than Thankskilling.
But still, I’m getting off track. Again. Let’s dig into the meat of this turkey (zing!) – let’s talk about Turkie, our John McClane of poultry-based humor. Give me his best punchline, pronto.
Chris: “Gobble, gobble, motherfucker!” That fast enough for you, bro?! He also has a load of one-liners. In fact, I think every time the turkey is in a scene there is a one-liner (now you all know how much we drank. Hah!!). Another favorite is “You’ve been stuffed,” uttered shortly after all that beak rape. Get ready for a shot and a Fireside for those paying attention! (Editor’s note: Rape may be too strong a word, even if it gets the point across. Tasteless sex is more like it, but that’s a clunky phrase.)
The turkey was actually loveable. I know that’s kind of strong, but hear me out: He delivers delicious one-liners and wonderful deaths. As a Macabre Brother, I think that it is a requirement to absolutely love those two things. Philly, what do you think? Favorite Turkie death?
Phil: Billy’s death by a long shot. It has to be one of the longest, oddest, funniest scenes I’ve ever seen, death or no. A bit of background: Shortly after the priceless “let’s-read-about-killing-Turkie” montage – “Well fuck Billy, we go to the library,” Darren utters – Billy is killed by Turkie. This is no ordinary death: Big Boy Billy’s insatiable hunger gets the best of him, and in a holiday-appropriate feast scene he eats the supposedly delicious Turkie with abandon. Shortly thereafter, Turkie blows a hole through Billy’s chest and utters the infamous “gobble, gobble” line.
Think that’s enough? Just wait. When the crew find Billy’s gory, mutilated corpse, the dorky Darren runs crying to his side. What follows is nearly five minutes of overacting, as Darren bawls and sobs and acts a little weird over his buddy’s body, all intercut with loving close-ups of our boy’s disemboweled stomach. If Thankskilling got one thing right, it’s the makeup. Turkie himself (itself?) may be a dollar-store puppet, but the effects are relatively entertaining in that Evil Dead way. It’s glistening, gorgeous and over-the-top, but dammit, it’s the sort of thing I want to see. Chris, what did this film do well and, maybe more importantly, how did it absolutely suck?
Chris: It did well by gory effects, like Phil said. The makeup on the actors is actually pretty good considering, like the rest of the film, that it is a first-year film school effort. On all other technical levels, this film sucks. Real talk, this film bugged me on quite a few levels. The lighting was worse than the short film I made sophomore year of high school, which had no extra lighting (and might give a clue as to how bad lighting in this film is.) The downside to this is that Thankskilling actually tries to use lights and fails at every attempt. It actually irked me on more than one occasion.
Another huge movie SUCK that Thankskilling participates in is the “ABC shooting.” Let me explain: You have shots of the guy in car, the guy getting out of car, the guy walking to the door, the guy opening door, the guy walking through door, the guy closing door, AND THEN the same thing, on reverse on the other side of the door. This technique, though sound, has not worked on audiences since the days of Hitchcock and Vertigo. It disconnected me from the movie as soon as it first happened. And, ashamedly, I can’t say that it only happened once. Any driving scene did this. It made the shitty acting and unbearably still two-shot and three-shot frames even worse than I thought. Do any technical issue bug you, Philly?
Phil: Lord… to be honest, I get so wrapped up in the ridiculous cheesiness of this film I rarely notice the half-assed filmmaking. I’ve watched this film every Thanksgiving since it was released, and this is the first time I’ve paid any attention to concerns like sloppy color correcting and blurry, digitized zooms. According to IMDb, the film had an estimated budget of $3,500. Needless to say, I’m not sure where a solid grand went – it sure as hell wasn’t used on lighting or post production or acting lessons.
Now that I know to look for the legitimate fuck-ups, I actually have a lot more fun (as if that were possible). During the film’s after-school-special scene – a given for any kinda-sorta genre satire – a small, relatively inconspicuous white dot floats in the upper right corner. I always assumed it was a firefly, but Chris informed me it’s actually the reflection of a boom mike. A fucking boom mike. Not only is float around the edge of the frame, the director felt no need to retake a scene that’s shoehorned beyond belief. It’s like you can practically see the “We learned something today” thought bubble above Billy the Jock’s head, backlit by the glistening boom mike. You can’t make this shit up.
Back to the idea of this as a student film. The filmmakers fall back on just about every trick in the book, from ill-timed montages to vignettes during every glimpse of the Billy/Darren bromance. Those are funny on a certain level, but when Johnny inadvertently breaks the fourth wall, it’s almost unforgivable. He reminds me of a so-so porn actor making his way through a relatively boring blow job. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the dude who plays Johnny is also in porn. Maybe the casting crew found him through the dim-witted nympho, who just so happens to be the victim of beak rape. I’m still not a fan of that phrase, but hopefully you all forgive me.
Before we wrap up, let’s talk about the film’s narrative. In the intro I suggested it was useless – I consider it little more than filler, yet another sloppy way to move from scene to scene of turkey molestation (better?). But you just said we never touched on the plot and I’m interested to know why. Does the story mean a damn thing, or is it easily forgettable?
Chris: The story really doesn’t mean dick; however, it’s interesting that we are talking about a turkey killing people without giving any description. So the turkey – a pretty terrible puppet by most standards – is out for revenge because an Indian shaman from the first Thanksgiving cursed him to kill every white descendent of the original pilgrims. Thus the film starts. Sound difficult to believe?! Why do you think we waited until last thing to talk about it? It really is a terrible story, but it gives rise to the ridiculous “who smells a sequel, biooooootch” line, uttered by a roasted turkey in the final scene. It’s such a convoluted (Phil said that first, I’m just stealing it) plot – it bounces all over the place, becoming just a gore fan’s pleasure-fest for a little over an hour. What do you have to add?
Phil: I can’t think of much more. As you say, Thankskilling is barely longer than the average HBO show, which means there’s only so much to discuss. This film begs to be watched, even if it doesn’t demand enjoyment or even respect. Add the Macabre Bros. drinking game and it becomes an event the entire family can enjoy, given you have a strange, strange family.
Chris: Film value .05, avoid if you want any neural signals to fire. Entertainment value a solid 2. Scope it but don’t go out of your way!
Phil: .05 as a film, nearly a 3 as a piece of unabashed trash. It doesn’t quite sound like a compliment, but it’s the most loving way to describe this turkey. Biooooooooootch!