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A Holiday Film to Confuse Your Grandma || ThanksKilling (2008) Movie Review

ThanksKilling (2008, dir. Jordan Downey) is a low-budget horror comedy that revolves around a cursed, homicidal turkey being awakened from his 505 year slumber to slay any caucasian people he comes across. In this case, it happens to be a group of five college student on their way home for their fall break. In this group is the less-than-bright jock Billy (played by Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson), the nerd that’s a little too adamant about having sex Darren (played by Ryan E. Francis), the stereotypical “slut” Ali (played by Natasha Cordova), the hunk Johnny (played by Lance Predmore), and our final girl Kristen (played by Lindsey Anderson). Together, they must reverse the curse that brought the turkey back and send him to Hell once and for all.

From the title and premise alone, it’s clear the goal of ThanksKilling is to be funny rather than scary. It’s a film that fits into a small, unnamed sub-genre of B-movie horror which focuses on ridiculous and comedic circumstances with a focus murder and gore. If I were to title this sub-genre, I might call them bloody comedies. Or, perhaps it can be defined solely as B-movie horror – however, I believe there are different levels and categories of B-movies. For example, I’ve discussed Charles Band recently during my Tourist Trap review and Band is, in my opinion, the Godfather of this subgenre. Watching a Band film such as Killjoy, The Gingerdead Man, or Evil Bong is an easy way to understand and define what exactly makes this type of B-movie horror different from Halloween or The Hills Have Eyes which are also B-movies. ThanksKilling follows the characteristics of a Charles Band piece so well that I initially thought he might have something to do with the film, but he did not. Although, because of these qualities ThanksKilling is a film that’s not for every horror enthusiast. I know many horror fans who don’t enjoy comedic, parody-like horror movies or who don’t agree with the concept that a film can be so bad it’s good. If you’re one of these people, ThanksKilling is not for you.

Most of the humor within ThanksKilling is hit or miss – especially because the film was made during a moment in time where edgy humor was prominent. Typically, edgy humor isn’t something that bothers me – I remember some of the obscene jokes I made in 2008 – but ThanksKilling comes across as cringey and outdated. For example, Ali is a regular punching bag throughout the film for being stupid and provocative. Even after the killer turkey rapes and murders her, which I will discuss, jokes are thrown around about her being a slut and it feels a little uncomfortable. However, there were moments where I believe the humor succeeded very well. Every scene featuring the Sheriff (played by Chuck Lamb) was wonderful and had the comedic value of a John Waters picture. When the Sheriff is introduced, he’s in the kitchen with his wife and takes a sip of his coffee. Immediately, the Sheriff is appalled and states, "Goddamn, Sheryl this coffee tastes like shit! What'd you do, take a dump in it?" Sheryl (played by Pat Love) turns to her husband to tell him that she did. In her hand is a glass coffee pot with feces at the bottom. As she slams the pot on the table, she yells, "I want a fucking divorce!" and leaves the room to never be seen again. While short and not pertaining to the plot at all, I enjoyed this little scene merely because of how Waters it was. Also, as the film progresses there are better jokes and bits thrown in – one of my favorites being the turkey wearing the face of Kristen’s father and despite clearly being a turkey, Kristen is completely fooled and believes it’s her dad.

Perhaps the best example of how terrible the humor within ThanksKilling can be is the turkey rape scene. Here, I believe the film attempts to be funny but ends up incredibly outdated. By the time this scene shows up, it’s the second explicit and random rape joke that the film makes – the first being a man wishing and preparing to have intercourse with the turkey on the side of a road. While I can understand the sentiment that it’s just supposed to be weird and gross, this scene between Ali and the turkey instead makes the viewer feel uncomfortable and awkward, especially as the turkey makes a comment about stuffing her. Although I watched this film alone, I felt incredibly embarrassed having it on my screen during moments like this. Also, I can’t help but mention how often behavior surrounding rape is used as a joke. In the first half of the movie, a trait of Darren’s character is just that he’s ravenous for sex. There’s a moment in the car where Darren expresses that no matter what he will be having sex with one of his friends and is practically foaming at the mouth while emphasizing that that it will happen.

When it comes to the quality of the film, ThanksKilling suffers in ways most B-movies do: unnatural dialog and a shaky plot coupled with high school level acting and annoying camera angles. Where ThanksKilling does succeed is in the video quality; a clean HD picture despite being a low-budget film from the late 2000s. It’s clear that the equipment used isn’t just some camera to make home movies. As for everything else, it’s as poor as I expected it might be going into this film. However, none of these qualities are surprising because they’re more like foundational characteristics of this bloody comedy sub-genre. Part of me might feel disappointed if the cast didn’t behave as if it were the first day of Theatre 101. The poor acting is what makes the film enjoyable, but it’s also still poor acting and can take a toll on the viewer at some moments. Although, the blame is not entirely on the cast for having poor acting, the dialog, or writing, itself is rudimentary and riddled with common, beginning writer mistakes. For example, much of the dialog is a character describing their circumstances to the audience or describing their own actions. This is what I might call “hand-holdy,” or a story that doesn’t trust its audience enough to understand what’s happening, so it feels compelled to spell it out.

Another aspect of the poor writing that irritated me to the point of making a note to myself that I need to deduct points from my score is that it seems as if the first draft of the script was also the final draft. I think the most prominent example that no one revised the script before filming is that Kristen makes the same, identical joke about Ali twice. The joke, “Her legs are harder to close than the JonBenet Ramsey case”, is stated first within the first few minutes of the film and again later when Ali is dropped off at her home. Both times the boys react and laugh to the joke, but for some reason the second time gets more attention and the boys react as if they’d never heard that joke before. As if it were a new, sick burn Kristen just dropped. Maybe this was intentional and meant to be a joke in itself, but it really came across as if it were the first time that joke had been used when it wasn’t.

While there is a lot to criticize with ThanksKilling, I do admire the fact that it’s apparent this film was made just for fun. I love that this is a B-movie where it’s obvious Downey made it just for the hell of it. The cast members are enthusiastic, clearly want to be there, and are taking their roles seriously despite it being an unserious film. Also, while some moments of ThanksKilling fall flat, there are also moments where more effort than what was necessary went into the film, such as with some of the editing and the animated segment. It’s by far not my favorite B-movie, but I love the passion, energy, and ambition that went into creating this movie. Movies like ThanksKilling are why I continue to watch niche, straight to DVD B-movie horror – no matter how bad it might be, there’s almost always some level of passion, love, and care that went into the production. That’s one of my favorite things about B-movies as a whole.

ThanksKilling C Tier

I would recommend this to audiences that want something strange or different to laugh at. The main goal of ThanksKilling is to entertain through comedy rather than be scary through traditional means of horror. While there are many scenes that are awkward or outdated, there are also genuinely comedic moments within this film. However, I would not rewatch it unless I were showing it to a friend. There’s nothing particularly special within this film that would make me want to return for seconds, except perhaps for the Sheriff. The Sheriff is by far the best aspect of this movie.

ThanksKilling is available to stream through Tubi, Pluto TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video


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