A Thanksgiving Horror Film Festival of One
For years I’ve thought to myself that I needed to do an article on Thanksgiving horror movies. Each year I would sit down and try. Each year I failed. I realized that there was a common bond with all my endeavours. One might think it was all of the family time, or maybe that it’s an American holiday and therefore had an intrinsically smaller audience which drove away investors. But it wasn’t. I decided that the issue was that each time I came up with the plan I always started with the same move, the properly panned 2009 (classic?) Thankskilling.
I do enjoy myself a campy movie, but I much prefer them campy on accident or necessity, but campy on purpose? I dunno… seems too contrived. Adding terrible humor to a terrible movie leaves too much to unpack. Was that funny on purpose? Was that terrible on purpose?... That's one too many questions for me.
So this year, I decided to skip Thankskilling entirely, which brought me to Blood Freak. Blood Freak is a very low budget flick from 1972 directed by Brad F. Grinter. Grinter’s only other claim to fame I could find was that he also directed Veronica Lake’s last movie, 1970’s Flesh Feast.
Okay, let’s just rip the Band-Aid off and say what this flick ended up being about. It's about a guy on a motorcycle. He meets some swinging hot chicks who want him to party, but apparently this motorcycle guy is too stand up to party. Luckily, the girls call him a wuss, which threatens his manhood enough that he hits a joint. He stays in town to do drugs and gets a job at a local turkey farm (as you do), a turkey farm that is also running biological experiments on turkeys (as you also do).
So now our motorcycle riding square that smoked pot is hooked on drugs… not just some drugs, apparently all drugs and he’s fed some experimented on turkey which mutates him to have a monster turkey head and to start killing people and draining their blood to so he can peck it up with his turkey beak.
The title sequence had a cool drippy blood thing that brought to mind The Dunwich Horror movie made two years prior, the psychedelic style you might expect, poor camerawork and choppy audio. It's odd that psychedelia took such a hold through the ‘60s and ‘70s when the technology couldn't keep up with the desired visuals. Hell, just watching Fear and Loathing, when they are walking into the casino with the lounge lizards, is enough to make me have a flashback. But these ‘70s effects? No wonder why they took so many drugs in the ‘70s, enough to make any movie trippy I guess.
The sequence then cuts to a doctor talking to us that makes me think of 90% David Cronenberg movies like The Brood, and 10% the Amazing Criswell from Plan 9. Yeah yeah yeah, everything has a comparison and that’s because everything does! I’ve always known too many kids that needed to create totally unique things, but creativity isn’t pulling nothing from the ether, it's pulling nothing from the ether and filtering it through yourself (i.e., all the shit you like to enjoy).
There was a lot of hindsight era-hopping, like the Conenberg and Criswell introduction. I was a little surprised by the mutant science fiction aspect of this flick seeing how it came out in 1972. The ‘70s to me was the decade of the serial killer in low budget horror flicks. Was this some amalgamated hold over for the post atomic cold war era of the ‘50s and ‘60s?
There’s that trope of ‘60s and ‘70s films of people hooking up with groups of groovie chicks and cool dudes that like to smoke pot and fuck. So, one of two things was going on back then. One, this was the cool life everybody wanted to live but didn't, or two, there were way more groovie-chick/cool-dude pot infused fuck parties that I realized.
Another trope of ‘70s films that came up was during any sexytime the music is a mellow guitar, like a spanish guitar playing what I can only describe as almost minstrel music from the middle ages?
All in all it was tolerable, which is not a bad start for a Thanksgiving horror movie marathon.
More on cogitations on 1972’s Blood Freak:
- The main star has a sweet Bubba Ho-Tep Elvis style going on.
- About a third of the way in we hit some turkeys, our first big thanksgiving clue.
- There is a music montage of a man consuming experimental turkey.
- The turkey-man was able to use a table saw. While not quite the same as Coco the Gorilla learning sign language... It is equally impressive.
- For those who say there is no poetic justice, the turkey-man did cut off some guy’s leg and eat it.
On to Blood Rage from 1987. It starts out at a drive-in, a staple of the time of course. I assume we can all agree that the best part of the pandemic is the possibility of it bringing back more drive-ins.
In a car, two parents start some heavy petting while their twins are in the back sleeping… which, is fucking gross. As a parent, and a normal human being, I find that the closer my proximity is to children, the less I want to fuck something.
The two kids wake up, and thanks to the shitty acting, were not sure if they were excited to see their parents going at it or not. Turns out they weren’t, they were just excited that their parents were distracted and they could sneak out of the back of the old school station wagon to sneak up on another couple. This seems all normal, until the first thing they do is sneak up on another cuple that is straight up fucking in a different car. Remember, these kids are like ten. There are some mandatory ‘80s tits and then one kid kills the dude with an axe while the other kid watches.
Fast forward and we are now listening to a doctor's dictation about a patient as we see shots of them doing doctor patient stuff. What with the doctor plot driving narrations in Thanksgiving movies? Is this the first Thanksgiving horror movie specific trope? Further research required.
It skips ahead and we are now dealing with sexy college aged kids, go figure. The twin that did the killing is in the loony bin and the non-murderous twin lives with the mom. Or do they? I would be a little more vague about the twins being switched, but I called it in the first five minutes. I think about this alot with my kids, not murder and looney bins, but the power of a twist. A premise that was new decades ago is now a joke on Family Guy, but shit, you just can’t stop progress.
The mom is getting remarried and the twin that’s at home is not particularly happy about it, which I find weird. When a kid is too involved with their parents dating life it definitely implies a need for some expensive therapy in their forties. The twin, thinly masking his disdain, then toasts with a tall glass of milk… why milk? It was the ‘80s.
For anyone that thinks that milk is normal I would like you to consider two things.
- No other animal drinks the tit juice of another animal on the planet.
- Try drinking a big glass of milk before bed and see what happens from your behind the next morning.
The movie isn’t about Thanksgiving, which alot of Thanksgiving flicks aren't, they just happen to take place during thanksgiving, but I figure if we can pass off Die Hard as a Christmas movie, we can do Blood Rage as a Thanksgiving movie. There is, however, a sweet Thanksgiving reference when one of the twins licks blood off his shirt and comments that, “It’s not cranberry sauce”.
Watching these movies back to back reminds me that decades are weird. This movie is 1987 but has all the vibes of 1977. I’m not sure about movies, but I know with music the true decades seem to be 5 years off. Music scenes seem to move more like 1975 to ‘85, ‘85 to ‘95 etc. I also can’t help but to wonder what are the tropes of today? Is the trope of today to make movies that seem like they were made in other times. If so, Blood Rage is ahead of its time by being an ‘80s movie paying homage to ‘70s movies. It’s weird to live in a day and age that tries to pay homage to every bygone area. This leaves me, in the 2020s, watching an ‘80s movie that is an homage to a ‘70s movie. Mind… Blown… (Douchey hand explosions).
A big tell that this is the ‘80s over the ‘70s is the angle of the gore shots. There is much more technically to the shots. A scene where a guy is stabbed through the stomach with a machete shows it going through from both sides, something we didn’t see much of in the ‘70s.
Ultimately how I feel about this movie is that it was overly ambitious. It's hard enough to write a good movie, but trying to throw in a twist? The problem with trying to plant twists in movies is that there has to be good writing and a good story structure to begin with. Without those things, this shit is just confusing. But if you are a fan of ‘80s flicks, creative deaths (for the time), and the occasional appearance of lady-nip, then this might be your cup of tea.
More on cogitations on 1987’s Blood Rage:
- As I watched more, there may have been a bit more than just lady nip.
- The surrealness of the dictation at the beginning is interesting, not well done, just interesting.
- The soundtrack is fucking awesome synthwave and I wish I could get my hands on it. Ultimately it’s an interesting combo of ‘70s synth-prog and ‘80s soundtrack bongo action music.
- The main problem with bad acting is that its hard to tell whos fucking and who is mom and child… maybe confusing sexual parent/child relationships is also a Thanksgiving horror movie trope? God, I hope not.
- The ‘80s were a time of hideous family photos, and this movie is no exception. Around 16 minutes in there is the freakiest baby pic that is passed off as normal.
- Not sure if it's the twins or the low quality film, but this flick reminds me of The Love Butcher, which a friend of mine actually named his kid after the murderous twin… So, that’s weird.
- One plot hole is that the twin that has been in a mental institution his whole life felt super comfortable hitting a joint but got all weird when talking to a girl. I figure in mental institutions there are girls, but not joints.
- They are doing shots of tequila with salt and lemon. Lemon? Is that a thing or just a necessity?
- I know it's a misogynistic thing to say, but let me preface by saying that in horror movies they are normally trying to make the girls look hot, but looking back on the ‘70s and ‘80s, sometimes it's hard to tell if they are hot cuz the hair and clothes of the time were so fucking hideous.
Then I tried Intensity, what I believed to be a movie from 1997 but was actually a miniseries from 1997. Does a miniseries with two parts count as a miniseries? Maybe a “Two Night Event”, I dunno. With the death of TV and the rise of the bingeable miniseries online, the world needs to figure out where to file TV miniseries.
Intensity starts out with some heavy Stephen King vibes. It would take a more well knowledged horror historian than myself to figure out if the Stephen King vibes are because King is the “king” of the TV movie, or the “king” of horror, or is it that Dean Koontz is a wannabe Stephen King. Lotta grey area there.
I finally thought that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do this without comparing the whole thing to Stephen King. The first people they show are red heads, I think both with green eyes. Do you know how uncommon that is, yet in every TV movie in the ‘90s they all have red hair and green eyes. Not sure if that’s a ‘90s thing or a King thing?.
Basically, it's about a girl with some fucked up parents that inadvertently gets herself kidnapped by a classical music loving serial killer, well played by John C. McGinley. There’s a lot of tension and hiding, she gets away, but goes back to save a girl instead of getting the cops because… we’ll it was the ‘90s, man.
It's funny how twenty-twenty hindsight makes the world look, seeing movies in the current social climate. From the eyes of a man that believes that women need way better roles in movies, you would think that I would take issue with the movie from the ‘70s or ‘80s. And, while they definitely had their chauvinism, this ‘90s flick seems all the worse for having what they felt was a strong woman lead. She is really just an unrealistic hysterical woman that talks to herself too much (same). To be fair she does get tougher, maybe that's the character development, I dunno, but if it is, Dean is laying it on thick… like ‘90s thick. The ‘90s had a way of doing that. I mean when you were in it it all seemed legit, but damn, have you tried to go back and watch Pump Up the Volume? Don’t.
Perhaps I have bias seeing how the ‘90s is when I was at my most rebellious and hormonally charged, a ball of hate and teenage fuck energy, so… let’s move on.
I guess my final call on this is it aint no Thanksgiving movie, even though it does take place around Thanksgiving (refer to Die Hard). I ended up enjoying it. My only regret is I didn’t watch it with Mrs. Buttonface. I think she would have enjoyed it going on in the background of her usual homeostasis, on the couch, vaping like the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, and playing Animal Crossing on her tablet.
One more cogitation on 1997’s Intensity:
- Good final note in the musical score. It goes minor and changes everything. Kudo’s to the soundtrack guy, George S. Clinton (Not to be confused with George E. Clinton, "The Lollipop Man, AKA the Long-Haired Sucker.")
There I am, running out of steam and lining up Boogeyman from 2005. Not sure if it's the name or the directing style but I immediately think of full moon pictures, and that is only good if you’re made by Full Moon (think Troma, but somehow worse). Again, being bad is only okay in some situations. It had some Babadook vibes, but ultimately, the 2000s were a rough time for seasoned horror fans. We had these movies that were “Experiences” but all they really amounted to was a shocking opening, a disappointing middle, followed by an attempt to shock us at the end, and, you have the same thing here… but they dropped the ball on the opening scary closet scene.
It happened. I couldn’t do it. I let that piece of shit play while I worked on stuff. I caught the gist. Basically, if you liked I Know What You Did Last Summer so much that you’re willing to watch something way worse, but going for the same audience, then this is your jam.
More on cogitations on 2005’s Boogeyman:
- I remember wanting to see this when it came out cuz Timothy Olyphant was in it, but was disappointed that it was really Barry Watson from Seventh Heaven. I got the two confused a lot.
- It has Darkness Falls vibes in the aesthetic to the point I had to look it up and discover that… no, they are not connected. Which I’m happy about because I really liked Darkness Falls, probably the best Tooth Fairy horror flick out there. “There are more,” you ask? Yes. Lots.
Okay, end of the night and I’m watching the last one, and after the stinker that was Boogeyman, I start Kristy from 2014. My hopes aren’t high. Did I just pick poorly? Is the genre of “Thanksgiving Horror” so small in it’s backlog and finite in it’s reach that there’s just nothing good? Also, I don’t really feel that the failings of 2000’s horror movies were corrected in the 2010s.
But, just when you start to think that all is for not while wondering, “What am I doing with my life?” you remember why you love horror films. I watch so many of them, just trying to recapture those inspired moments of my youth. One might ask if it is really worth watching 99 of the world’s worst films just to find one that’s good. The answer is a resounding yes.
Kristy started out with some suggestive sexy young people bodies… which makes me think, “Okay this thing might be tolerable, but it won't be great”, but it immediately sends you for a twist and the twist is… the whole beginning is well acted and, while obviously setting up the location of the film, does so in a way that is very believable.
Kirsty is basically about a girl who stays at her college over Thanksgiving break which draws they eye of some satan-worshiping murder people. The premise is somewhat derivitive, but the shocker is, it’s made really fucking well! And as I said, believable… at least I think it is… I dropped out of community college, but had I gone to a great school, I could imagine staying home for thanksgiving break.
I love my family and all, but man, holidays… am I right? I have to show up, stay sober, be interesting and try to explain a direction for my life, which, let's just admit it, is a slow beeline to six feet under.
Kristy is one of those movies you don't even want to talk about because you want it to be a pleasant surprise for everybody, like it was for you… then you are reminded that people don't do what you do. But you really should.
One more cogitation on 2014 Kristy:
- Sick arpeggiated soundtrack, yet still subtle. I’m not sure if it’s because the movie rocks or if it is some level of tact from the director and composer.
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