Thursday, November 25, 2010

Heinous for the Holidays: THANKSKILLING (2009)

Chances are you’ve stumbled across some of the ridiculously hyperbolic promo material for this backyard horror spoof and chances are you said to yourself “Maybe I’ll check tha – hey, JONAH HEX!” Not to worry, you haven’t missed out on anything like this since you missed the last Todd Sheets effort.

Shot on video by a group of friends in Ohio for the resale value of a used Doge Neon, this is not the worst SOV attempt I've ever seen, but then again, it sure ain't the best.

Opening with a tacked on prologue that looks like it was shot after distributor’s balked at the lack of nudity (and rightfully so), in 1621 after the first Harvest Dinner a topless puritan (ungracefully aging porn star Wanda Lust) is presumably attacked by a rubber turkey head who says “nice tits bitch!” before we see an axe that presumably is wielded by said turkey and presumably ends her life. Presumably, because all of this is static shots edited together and the kill is not only off screen, but doesn't even have the requisite blood-splash on a sign post. Man, you guys aren’t even going to deliver some blood in the opening kill? You are going to have to do some serious catching up to recover from that fiasco, because you know what comes next, right?

One of these things is not like the other...

Flash forward to a modern day college campus. Our main characters, who are apparently the only people who go to school here, meet up on the college steps. Obligatory fat-guy (who of course smells bad and eats constantly) Billy 'The Hick' (Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson) runs down the steps and rips his shirt open Hulk Hogan-style shouting “Thanksgiving break! Yes!” This, as he explains to Johnny 'The Jock' (Lance Predmore), is merely an excuse to get the local hoochie Ali (Natasha Cordova) “to show her big ol’ titties”. Ummmm… I think Billy has been hittin’ the holiday beverages a bit early as Ali is obviously a card-carrying member of The Committee. You know, the Itty Bitty… oh never mind.

Accompanied by Kristen 'The Good Girl' (Lindsey Anderson) and Darren 'The Nerd' (aka The Weird Guy, Ryan E. Francis), the group sets out to make the rounds dropping everyone off at home for Turkey Day. Along the way Darren, who seems to have a man-crush on Johnny, divulges that he is going to get “buck wild” and “have sex with someone in this car!” Dude, there’s only two chicks, one isn’t sleeping with anyone and the other is hot for the jock, and it’s a jeep.

Meanwhile, a white-trash dude who desperately wants to be mistaken for The Motor City Madman, named Oscar (General Bastard), is out in the sticks when his dog Lassie manages to find the one spot in the forest to piss on that would return the killer turkey to life. As luck would have it at this very same moment the jeep blows a radiator hose (which is later fixed without any parts or tools) and the kids are forced to camp for the night since none of them have cell phone reception. Seriously, I’ve been to Ohio, I know how empty some of those roads can be, but a) this is supposed to be New England and b) it’s freakin’ Thanksgiving. You should be so lucky to have no traffic whatsoever, not to mention a complete lack of snow or even cold weather. Anyway, once they realize they are stuck for the night, they also realize they have tents and beer! Sweet! Then of course comes the realization that they are in Crawberg, the site of the Crawberg Pilgrim Massacre. Cue animated backstory. Ok, more like static cartoon drawings, but whatever.

While the alleged college students argue about the legitimacy of the tale of the killer turkey who was summoned by an Indian necromancer to get vengeance on the white man, the killer turkey hitches a ride. One of the genuinely amusing conceits of the movie is that average joes perceive the turkey as a midget, not an unplucked holiday fowl. After a driver decides to add “cornhole” to his holiday menu, the killer turkey backs out of the deal and shoots the driver in the head with a shotgun for a little CGI splatter. Jumping behind the wheel, the turkey takes off to intercept each of the kids at their parent’s houses. I’m not sure why he would do that as he had just terrorized them at their campsite and could have killed them all in one fell swoop! Seems a little bird-brained to me (ok, ok, stop throwing those croutons).

First the turkey kills off Jonny’s mom and dad (mostly off screen) leaving Johnny to cry about missing the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. Then he’s off to Ali’s house where he catches her taking it doggy-style (fully clothed) with some random dude. After slashing the dude’s throat with his beak, he tags in on Ali’s ass… or yellow pillow! C’mon guys, do you think nobody can tell the difference between a chick’s ass and a pillow? Hell, I guess we know who the target audience is now. Its details like this that pop up constantly where the “filmmakers” show that they just don’t care. “We’re making a stupid movie! Who gives a shit?” Clearly not you.

When the kids get to the scene of the crime they find an extra-small, gravy-flavored condom and Billy is pissed because he thought he had a shot with the local slut, “we gotta find a way to kill this cock-blockin’ turkey!” he rants. So it’s off to Kristen’s house to get to her father’s collection of antique books that will contain the ritual for killing the bird. Unfortunately they arrive after the turkey, in one of the films few inspired moments, kills the sheriff father and uses his face as a Leatherface-style mask to take the father’s place and lure the kids to their deaths. While the kids look through books, the fat guy eats French fries and complains about being hungry. Yep, director/producer/writer Jordan Downey sets the bar high.

Soon they discover that in order to kill the turkey, they need to remove the talisman it’s wearing, chant a prayer for sacrifice, then kill it. From here it’s a game of hunt and peck as the turkey kills off the kids one by one as they try to figure out how to dispose of it once and for all. In one of the other few inspired moments, Darren laments over his fallen fat comrade initiating a music-montage flashback of their friendship, sharing ice-cream and skipping through fields. It’s a bit too obviously inspired by identical moments from the animated TV show “South Park”, plus it’s over-long and could have used a punch-line at the end, but it beats the hell out of the lame attempts at comedy in CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1988). Then again, there are the other jokes, like the turkey’s head poping out of a guy’s chest proclaiming “gobble, gobble, motherfucker!” and of course the tacked on epilogue where a family is sitting down to thanksgiving dinner and the roasted bird jumps up and says “do I smell sequel BIOOOOOOOTCH!?” Ummm, no, I just smell a half-baked turkey.

Don’t let Downey fool you with the “extreme” marketing, this ain’t even in the same ballpark with zero-budget gorefests like VIOLENT SHIT (1989) which was made for almost half of the budget of THANKSKILLING. I’d love to give this flick major props for the ol’ indy spirit, but the bungled comedy, barely adequate gore, bad CGI, limp acting AND lame wannabe early ‘90s Freddy lines don’t give us a lot to be thankful for. Some folks have made the claim that they feel this is the successor (or sucfailor) to Troma’s legacy, but I don’t think that comparison does either of them any justice. Sure the comedy is forced and fowl-mouthed, and yes, a modern Troma staple of having unattractive people naked is represented by the opening scene, but there’s not much else that bears comparing, good or bad. If you are a teenager and like movies made by hipsters who are intentionally making a crap movie, and are desperately looking for someone to give you your one-liners this Holiday season, I guess you’ll get a kick out of it. Poultry-seasoned veterans beware.

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