Thankskilling ~ 2009, Jordan Downey
“WARNING: BOOBS IN THE FIRST SECOND!” – RIGHT ON THE COVER OF THE DVD!!! Right on the freaking cover. Clearly, this is thought to be a selling point. Well, I timed it, and it’s not even true. There is some text that actually kicks off the movie, just some backstory nonsense that nobody cares about, and depending where the film actually “begins,” the boobs (boy oh boy!) are actually between 16 to 18 seconds in, a far cry from literally the first second. As if you could even withstand further mammary related let-downs in your short, miserable life, these initial breasts are also the only boobs in the entire movie, which, I feel, is not at all the implication made by hyping boobs on the cover of your damn DVD. Really, that’s a good lesson for us all to learn right off the bat, because Thankskilling is all about promises that it doesn’t keep. Get ready for let-down after let-down, folks.
THE PLOT~ When a mismatched group of small-town youths head into the woods for a camping trip, they find themselves at ground zero for the return of a weird, talking turkey monster, which was summoned by Native Americans as a form of revenge against white settlers. It’s effective, that thing ruined a full 90’s minutes of my life! As the turkey begins to kill our characters one by one, they must band together, traditional teen slasher style, to defeat the killer critter, before it’s too late.
Thankskilling is a comedy wrapped up in the trappings of a horror movie. Therefore, by order of priority, you would expect it to be funny first, and scary second. You’d expect wrong, Thankskilling is the furthest thing from scary, and it’s painfully unfunny to boot. Lame, one dimensional jokes are doled out in great abundance from the very first scene, and they will absolutely let you down. I went into this with genuine, foolish optimism, but after the first botched one liner I felt my heart sink, and I thought, “oh…. So, this movie sucks ass, then…”
Yes, it does.
The killer Turkey is our first problem. As the only asset this franchise possesses of even minor, passing value, he really needed to be great, but damn, he isn’t. Turkie, as he is known, is a typical one-liner oriented movie monster, but he has absolutely no charisma, and his one liners totally suck. Now, this is something that demands clarification; cheesy one liners are awesome. Please, do not misunderstand; I’m not saying I don’t like one liners, or even stupid one liners, but there is a way to do one-liners right, and a way to do them wrong. Here, let’s use the 2002 micro-budget movie Scarecrow as an example:
In Scarecrow, there’s a one liner where our murderous scarecrow guy backflips into frame, looks a character in the face (somebody’s dad), says “Heads up, daddy-o!” And then decapitates his screaming, probably confused victim, with a sickle. Awesome. Now, that is just wonderful. Excellent work, Scarecrow. I don’t want to have to break down why this is an actual one-liner and why that flies when Thankskilling’s jokes cannot, truthfully, this is just how one-liners work. What we have in Thankskilling are ineffective one-liners that do not work. Let’s take a look at an example:
…The very first one liner in the movie: Our topless pilgrim woman (topless for no reason at all) is confronted by our killer turkey. He says “Nice tits, bitch!” and then he kills her. That’s it.
That’s not really a one-liner… That’s just like… A statement… A vulgar, ugly statement… And it’s really, really lame. This is not an isolated thing, I kept track, Downey manages to pull off two one-liners this entire movie, and that’s two that worked and dozens that didn’t. In summation, Jordan Downey decided to make a one-liner movie, but he apparently doesn’t understand what a one-liner even is, and let’s face it, this shit ain’t rocket science. If you can’t match the wit of Arnold Schwarzenegger, then maybe comedy isn’t your thing.
In general, the jokes in Thankskilling are pretty clear examples of humor written by someone who isn’t funny, and who has confused humor with vulgarity. Now, vulgarity can be funny, but you still have to do it right. This is the sort of hasty, excited vulgarity you get from someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing, but retains an enthusiasm you would have to assume is rooted in ignorance. It’s kind of like a sixth grader who’s just starting to use profanity for the first time. Eyes bright like a kid on Christmas morning, face twisted into a joyful smile, F-bombs ploppin’ out of his pubescent maw with no articulation or purpose, that’s what the jokes in Thankskilling feel like. That’s the vibe, it really comes across. Tactless and witless, yet enthusiastically vulgar. “WEINER!” Giggle giggle. That kind of thing.
Oddly enough, the movie does start to pick up steam a little more towards the end, as if Downey wrote the first half at the age of eleven and picked it up again while in college. One or two of the jokes in the third act approach legitimate comedy, including the two successful one-liners I mentioned before. Here, we’ve been rough on this movie, let’s be nice and walk you through one of the film’s fully functioning one-liners. Seems only fair. My favorite one goes like this: When one of our human protagonists is bending over to look into a refrigerator, Turkie jumps up behind him and stabs his butt with a meat thermometer, at which point he quips “You’re done!” Good job Downey, you did it! That’s a real live one-liner! Did you get help from your parents?!
It’s still pretty much too little too late. Thankskilling managed to succeed financially because of how bonkers it was. After all, this is a movie where a murderous turkey says “Gobble gobble, mother fucker,” and kills people, it’s easy to see how people would want to enjoy that experience. I sure wanted to. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to not love a movie about a murderous turkey puppet ?! I tried, man!!
But try as I might, I couldn’t ignore how painfully mediocre Thankskilling really is. For a lot of people, the premise is still going to be enough, no matter how shitty the execution was. I really want to stress this, however; you don’t HAVE to watch Thankskilling if you want that “no budget/I can’t believe someone made this movie/holy shit” type experience. So, so many movies have already come and gone and done it better, and there’s no shortage of flicks I’d lump into this category that are ACTUALLY FUNNY. Don’t waste your time, I would recommend you instead check out The Taint, Blood Car, Yeti: A Gay Love Story, and Coons: Dark Night of the Bandits of the Night, as well as just about anything by Chris Seaver, most especially I Spit Chew on Your Grave, Ski-Wolf, Terror at Blood Fart Lake, and Sexsquatch. If you want a Thanksgiving themed horror movie, that’s a little harder to come by. You should just watch Thanksgiving, the faux trailer Eli Roth did in Grindhouse. Watch it fifteen times before you watch Thankskilling even once.