Welcome back to the scariest, and at times goriest, column here at Film Inquiry: Horrific Inquiry. Twice a month, I will be tackling all things horror, bringing two films back into the spotlight to terrify and frighten once more. And occasionally looking at those that could have pushed the envelope further. Join us as we dive deep into the heart of horror, but warning, there will be spoilers.

“No more Pumpkin Pie. No More Cranberry Sauce. Just Turkey. Fucking Turkey!” – Thankskilling (2008)

As the holidays approach, here at Horrific Inquiry, I have been looking for the perfect film to kick off another horrific holiday season. And have I ever found a doozy. Have you ever watched a film that was so bad – it was good? Well, maybe not good, but definitely entertaining. For this season of giving, Horrific Inquiry is giving Jordan Downey‘s Thankskilling a moment in the lime light, embracing the ridiculous, the radioactive and even contemplating a second helping.

Fowl Beginnings

Starting in 1621, Thankskilling is both predictable and shocking, feeling more like a smut horror than a terrifying seasonal tale. The camera opens on a large breast, the camera moving away from its subject to capture a pilgrim women running through the forest in fear. It is hard not to take in her attire – or lack there of – her voluptuous breasts made even more noticeable surrounded by “almost” traditional pilgrim attire. As laughing engulfs her, so does an attack from behind, a homicidial turkey, appropriately named Turkie (Jordan Downey), quipping “nice tits, bitch!” before bringing an axe down upon her.

While this opening sequence establishes the lore Thankskilling will be based on, it also gives audiences a brief introduction to Turkie, an undeniable horrific homage as it marries the personalities of Freddy Krueger, Chucky and Leprechaun. As Turkie makes a memorable entrance, the film launches into its opening credits, both the score and video game inspired visuals one of the highlights of the film. Sadly, the rest of Thankskilling does not retain this quality – rather discovering its beauty in its absurdity.

source: Gravitas Ventures

Thankskilling moves ahead 505 years, a group of college students making their way home for Thanksgiving break. Immediately, the quintessential stereotypes of old horror films finds its players in “the Jock”, “the Hillbilly”, “the Nerd”, “the Slut” and “the Prude”. Mix in the film’s terrible acting and over the top saccharine energy as they depart school, and you are left feeling more like you have just watched a Mentos commercial rather than the ground work of a horror film.

This quality of performance remains  subpar as we are introduced to Oscar the Hermit (General Bastard) and his dog Flashy (Jake). As Oscar’s dog runs off into the forest, Turkie is reawakened as Flashy pees on his burial ground, an Indian totem marking his place of rest. Presenting viewers with one of the hardest moments to watch in the film, Turkie comes back to life, killing the dog. While the college students find their jeep over heating, Oscar the hermit finds his beloved dog whimpering in his final breaths, vowing revenge on the culprit.

You Can’t Quit This One Cold Turkey

At this point, you may find yourself wanting to turn the film off. While it may leave you with the feeling that anyone could make a film, the bad acting, poor direction and asbsolutely ridiculous Indian curse is a bit much for anyone to handle. But then something… happens. It’s easy to identify where in the film it starts to take hold of its audience, but more difficult to actually point out the moment. As Darren (Ryan E. Francis) tells the others of the legend of Crawberg, and the disrespect of an Indian Chief resulting in the necromancy curse on a turkey, it parallels the return of Turkie and his mission of vengeance. While Kristen (Lindsey Anderson) is the first to run into Turkie, each has their own unique, and at times disturbing, experience until one by one, they begin to believe and fall prey to the fowl legend.

source: Gravitas Ventures

As absurd as this sounds, it is here that Thankskilling begins to lean into its ridiculous nature. As rabbits, which are clearly stuffed animals, are thrown into the fire and turkey droppings, which are clearly dried sausage, begin turning up to accelerate the narrative, Thankskilling transforms from the terrible to a campy delight of absurdity and awareness. And its not about to let up yet.

While the students survive the night, they are far from free of Turkie. Charged by his necromancy curse to kill the first white folks he finds, Turkie embarks on a journey to avenge the Indian chief, “hitchhiking”, beheading Johnny’s (Lance Predmore) father, wearing the skin of Kristen’s and returning one last time for the final showdown. Just when you think the film can not get any more absurd, Thankskilling proves to its final title card that there is no limit that Turkie can reach… even space.

Right Kind of Fowl Humor

While the beginning may seem like the beginning to just another smut horror, it gives us a framework that not only shapes Turkie but encourages the absurd. Turkie’s interactions throughout the film with the students, as well as those he comes across, are both brutal, insane and, at times, diamonds in the rough. This is not a turkey that knows restraint, and neither does director Jordan Downey.

source: Gravitas Ventures

And while the film has its ups and downs, Thankskilling gets you when it comes to the fowl humor of Turkie. One of these moments finds Turkie interacting with Kristen’s father, Sheriff Roud (Chuck Lamb) dressed as a turkey with Turkie arriving to search for Kristen dressed as a human. It’s a unique and brilliantly crafted moment that builds on itself, the Sheriff inviting Kristen’s “friend” in to wait for her, the two sharing a cup of hazelnut coffee.

As inadvertent disrespect seals the Sheriff’s fate, his death opens a new wealth of humor and costume, Turkie greeting Kristen at the door wearing her father’s face – a costume that works well to fool the doomed group of students. While these two moments rank high on the film’s showcase of humor, they are only a sampling, the film elevated by its hilarity, further compounded by its growing awareness of self. It’s these moments, when the film leans into the humor of the absurd, that it truly shines.

Second Helpings?

While Turkie states he “always comes back for seconds”, will you? I have to admit, I think I might. As the film teases the return of Turkie – and a location change to space – I find myself intrigued by how the film can become even more ridiculous. And seeing as how Thankskilling has spawned not one, but two sequels, the intrigue only further deepens.

Thankskilling is far from a good film, ranking fowl on almost every aspect of filmmaking – but when it comes to entertainment, Thankskilling has the potential to become a new Thanksgiving traditional favorite.

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