Mob Scene: Thanksgiving

Yes, it’s April Fools’ Day, but tonight Dispatches from the Macabre Republic returns by celebrating Thanksgiving.

Eli Roth’s 2023 film evinces an astute awareness of slasher formula. Its extended opening sets up a genre-specific plot, one quintessentially driven by revenge (to quote slasher savant Jade Daniels, in Stephen Graham Jones’s 2022 Stoker-Award-winning novel My Heart Is a Chainsaw: “years ago there was some prank or crime that hurt someone and then the slasher comes back to dispense his violent brand of justice”). Thanksgiving takes this inciting prank/crime element, and elaborates it into a full-blown mob scene.

Getting the jump on Black Friday sales, the local RightMart in Plymouth, Massachusetts, decides to open up at 6 P.M. on Thanksgiving night. A seething crowd gathers outside in anticipation (“Let us in or you’ll be a patient–in Mass General,” one hooligan intones when a RightMart security guard begs the crowd members to remain patient). When the film’s protagonist Jessica (daughter of the store owner) sneaks her friends in through the employee entrance ten minutes early, those still waiting outside the front doors do not react kindly. A regrettable act of taunting amidst this premature shopping spree precipitates a store-storming riot. Immediate pandemonium breaks out as the crowd stampedes in, a battle royale of brawling and looting. Employees are trampled, an innocent bystander suffers a gruesome arm-mangling, and the wife of the store manager (tragically caught in the wrong place/time) is mowed down by a rogue shopping cart–then partially scalped by one of its wheels for bad measure.

Roth’s mob scene is brilliantly orchestrated, spotlighting the darkest impulses of the store crowd. The gonzo violence only accentuates the satire of human callousness and consumerist greed. In hindsight, the scene also subtly clues viewers in to the identity of the subsequent (John-Carver-masked) slasher who manifests the following Thanksgiving season and wreaks bloody, holiday-themed havoc on the RightMart wrongdoers.

A wickedly witty slasher that offers up a grisly yet satisfying course of revenge, Thanksgiving can currently be streamed on Netflix.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *