If you’re hungry for a little Thanksgiving horror, our writers share ten tasty holiday favorites that aren’t the same ol’ dish.
After gorging ourselves on Halloween horror, and before the bountiful feast that is the Christmas slay fest, there is the neglected middle child known as Thanksgiving. And for those craving a tasty Turkey Day treat, the pickings are a bit slim. That’s especially true if you actually want to watch a reasonably satisfying horror film and not just fill up on empty calories (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
So, for those of you looking to serve up something different this Thanksgiving, our team has put together a list of a few savory options you may have missed.
1. Kristy (2014)
Holiday horror tends to skew towards high camp and high concept. This isn’t inherently a bad thing — who doesn’t want to see, say, Gary Busey turn into an evil gingerbread man and go on a maple-spice rampage? But it doesn’t particularly lend itself to genuine fear. Kristy is an outlier, in that it is a genuinely frightening movie that cleverly uses its Thanksgiving setting, not as a gimmick, but as a pivotal plot point.
Kristy is a movie about a young college student named Justine, who remains on campus over the Thanksgiving break, while her peers go home. She is stalked and terrorized by a religious cult, determined that if they can kill “Kristys” — women they perceive as followers of God — they can kill God.
Imagine, if you will, my finest Stefon voice:
This movie has everything. Cults, gore, a cool final girl, some social commentary, clever use of modern tech and snuff films. And all of it works because of the isolation that Justine experiences, owing to the Thanksgiving setting.
Without one evil turkey in sight, Kristy is a sober, intense option if you need something to perk you up after the tryptophan kicks in (and perhaps if you want to assure that your more conservative relatives aren’t tempted to invite you to the next holiday dinner.)
– Recommended by Kelly Mintzer
If you haven’t seen Kristy, you’re in for a real Thanksgiving treat; check it out now on Tubi.
2. Addams Family Values (1993)
When you’re in the mood for Turkey Day, there’s no better pick than Addams Family Values, the sequel to The Addams Family (1991) that had the delightful quality of being just as good as the original film, but in an entirely different way.
Addams Family Values sees young Wednesday and Pugsley sent off to summer camp as Uncle Fester (an almost recognizable Christopher Lloyd) is ensnared by the new nanny. The seductive, if homicidal, Debbie (Joan Cusack, in one of her best performances).
The entire cast is stellar, with Christine Baranski and Peter MacNichols as the manic camp counselors, and Christina Ricci as the iconic Wednesday, featuring the creepiest smile since the Joker came on the scene.
While the movie is set in summer, the best part of the film is the camp play, based on the first Thanksgiving. As the counselors bustle with their dancing foods and whitewashed history (and Pugsley sings “Eat Me” while dressed as a giant turkey), Wednesday turns the tables with an act of clever revenge that is more satisfying than that last bite of pumpkin pie.
Hilarious, wickedly smart, and flawlessly acted, Addams Family Values is the rare second helping of a horror-comedy hit that’s just as delicious as the first.
– Recommended by Alli Hartley
Relive the magic of Addams Family Values now on Netflix.
3. “Into the Dark” Pilgrim (2019)
There are many Thanksgiving horror films that are associated with the holiday simply because they happen on Thanksgiving or a turkey happens to be present. But not many horror films are actually about the Thanksgiving Season — except for 2019’s Pilgrim.
Originally released on Hulu as part of Blumhouse’s “Into the Dark” Series, Pilgrim follows a well-to-do suburban family who invites a pilgrim into their home for a more original Thanksgiving celebration. As the days go on, more and more pilgrims start coming to the family’s home. What was supposed to be a simple reenactment turns into a nightmare as the pilgrims torture the family to get them to realize all they should be thankful for.
Similar to the holiday that inspired it, the most important moment of this film is the big meal. Only, at this horrific feast, it’s not turkey that’s on the menu but something much more sinister. It all culminates in one of the goriest and batshit crazy scenes in recent memory — all juxtaposed to gospel music. It’s disorienting and demented…what more could you ask for?
The film is directed by Marcus Dunstan, who also directed The Collector but made his film debut as a writer for the manic Feast.
If you are a fan of either of these films — or, if you just hate cranberry sauce — check out this wild yet perfect Thanksgiving horror film today (after you eat, of course).
– Recommended by Bud Fugate
Get into the spirit of the season and its bloody history by watching Pilgrim now on Hulu.
4. Home Sweet Home (1981)
One of the best things about horror is that it can get away with being objectively bad and still be entertaining. Put it this way: there are more movies like WrestleManiac than like The Room.
Home Sweet Home (also known as the imaginatively titled Slasher in the House) from 1981 is a rare Thanksgiving slasher that fits this description perfectly.
An escaped mental patient is on the loose and has targeted a family celebrating Thanksgiving as his next set of victims. The characters are dumb even by 80s horror standards, the kills are creative, and the killer is a PCP addict who has a great laugh and fantastic facial expressions.
Home Sweet Home checks off all the right boxes and is a great time.
– Recommended by Nathaniel Muir
You can enjoy the deliciously low-budget, 80’s shot-on-video goodness of Home Sweet Home now on YouTube.
Home Sweet Home (1981) and Blood Rage (1987) may have permanent spots on your Thanksgiving horror menu, but the Thanksgiving horror short film Invaders (2014) is the dangerously delicious side dish that you might have missed but won’t soon forget.
Written and directed by Jason Kupfer, Invaders is a home-invasion horror comedy set on Thanksgiving night. The film opens with two psychopaths, played by The Walking Dead alum Jordan-Woods Robinson and Ricky Wayne, bickering inside a parked car as they make their final preparations for a home invasion.
A wholesome family prepares to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast inside the idyllic suburban house targeted for the attack. Back in the car, the pair of criminals decide what facial coverings to wear (Pilgrim masks) and what weapons to use (axes). Now ready to strike, the bumbling duo eats their just desserts in an unexpected and shockingly bloody yet hilarious twist.
Kupfer and his team made the film on a crowd-funded budget of $5,000 (that’s $1,500 more than the entire budget of Thankskilling (2008)!) over the course of 3 days and managed to use a remarkable 250 gallons of stage blood for the finale.
Clocking in at only 7 minutes, Invaders is every bit as witty and humorous as it is dark and terrifying.
Invaders has screened in dozens of film festivals around the world and continues to rack up awards and a growing cult following, rightfully so.
– Recommended by Matthieu DuPée
Even if you’re short on time, you can enjoy some stellar holiday horror; watch this delightful short for free now on Vimeo.
I love a good horror film about the evils of consumerism, especially at this time of year where greed and overconsumption are as American as pilgrim pride with a slice of apple pie. Thus, I’d have probably been psyched to see Casey Tebo’s indie horror-comedy Black Friday, even without its star attraction: the Sultan of Cool, Bruce Campbell.
Campbell, of course, is always a delight, and his performance here is no exception. He brings his A-game and is easily the best part of the film about a parasitic, zombie-like outbreak on the famous shopping day. But that’s not to say the rest of the cast is sub-par. He’s joined by another horror icon, Devon Sawa, a likable and compelling leading man. Ivana Baquero (known for her extraordinary performance as a young girl in Pan’s Labyrinth) is also a standout, as is the mean-spirited by smarmily fun Stephen Peck.
To its credit, the film attempts to add some depth to its characters and some humanity to its outlandish plot. But it’s at its best when it leans into its absurdity, giving the middle finger to corporate America and dialing up the batshit mania well past eleven.
Black Friday is 80 minutes of fast-paced mayhem with a berserk ending that’s admittedly silly but still nutty fun. This low-budget gem also delivers some great practical and makeup effects courtesy of the legendary Robert Kurtzman.
Don’t expect anything revolutionary. But there’s enough mindless fun, humor, and even a bit of a heart to make this a worthwhile watch — and, let’s face it, Campbell alone is worth the price of admission.
Black Friday is now available to rent on most VOD platforms.
7. Blood Freak (1972)
This absolutely insane exploitation flick — about a drug-addicted, half-human-half-turkey mutant, bloodsucking were-beast (yes, really) — was actually an anti-drug PSA and Christian propaganda piece masquerading as a B-movie horror film.
Written and directed by Brad F. Grinter and Steve Hawkes, who also stars, this Florida (where else?) export marketed itself as “A DRACULA ON DRUGS” and delivered a cautionary tale about a Vietnam vet who gets seduced by the dangers of marijuana.
To call Blood Freak an odd bird is quite an understatement.
It has a very clear pro-Christian bent, but that apostatizing happens in the context of a quintessential 70s grindhouse film stuffed full of sex, drugs, and bloody mayhem. It happens in a movie where a woman has sex with a were-turkey to the sound of gobbling and moaning; where a man wearing a giant chicken helmet slits a woman’s throat and greedily laps up her blood; where a poor fellow gets his leg cut off with a power saw — in grisly and gory detail.
It happens in a film where a chain-smoking narrator (Grinter) reads from a script and coughs up a lung while waxing poetic about devil women and moral quandaries — reminding us all that Jesus saves and drugs are bad, mmm k?
Is Blood Freak a good horror film? Dear God, no. It’s an actual abomination. But for members of the “so-bad-it’s-good” fan club, this is a must-see mishap.
Check out this notorious cult classic now via the Internet Archive.
This ’80s cult classic is considered by many to be essential Thanksgiving viewing — and for good reason.
Terry and Todd (both brilliantly played by Mark Soper) are identical twins. In 1974, Terry framed Todd for murder, and Todd was locked in a psych ward. Now, ten years later, as the family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner, Terry learns Todd has escaped. In a desperate attempt to keep his bloody secret safe, Terry embarks on a murderous rampage.
Blood Rage is honestly everything you want from an 80’s slasher. It’s darkly funny, perfectly twisted, and fantastically gory. We get lots of fun and inventive kills, and the effects are stellar (delivered courtesy of Ed French of Creepshow 2, C.H.U.D., and Terminator 2 fame).
Soper is fantastic in a dual role, but the real draw is the gloriously over-the-top, off-kilter performance from Louise Lasser as Terry and Todd’s mom.
Need another reason to watch? How about its wonderfully ‘80s style — including a pulsing synth score and that, oh, so fabulous fashion.
With a surprisingly shocking and satisfying ending, and some hilarious and memorable dialogue (“It’s not cranberry sauce!”), Blood Rage is the perfect dish — an equal serving of silliness and gore.
You can find this beloved Thanksgiving staple streaming for free on Tubi or Shudder (among other platforms).
9. The Oath (2018)
While Thanksgiving is a time for many to acknowledge America’s ugly past, The Oath tries to tackle the reality of its ugly present — serving up scathing satire on a sizzling platter.
With the U.S. deeply divided among political party lines, the liberal Chris (played by writer/director Ike Barinholtz) faces an uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner with his conservative parents and exceptionally conservative brother Pat, as well as Pat’s Fox News-loving girlfriend Abbie. Though Chris has the support of his loving wife Kai (an understated Tiffany Haddish) and older sister Alice, the family affair is a pressure cooker — fueled in large part by tensions over the president’s decree that all citizens should sign a loyalty oath to their country.
Those tensions escalate — and things quickly go from awkward to terrifying — when two government officials show up to question Chris about his apparent lack of loyalty.
It sounds heavy, and it sort of is. The implications of what unfolds in Barinholtz’s fictional but too-close-for-comfort world are harrowing. There are also scenes of fairly intense violence, as well as a growing sense of dread. But the tension is regularly cut with sharply written comedy, which keeps the whole affair from ever feeling too unpleasant. And although the political commentary is pointed and pulls no punches, it never feels preachy or heavy-handed because everyone is fodder for ridicule — even the liberal “hero”.
As The Oath itself seems to suggest, it will be a lovely day when films like this stop feeling so damn relevant, even years after they’re released. Sadly, for now, this is America.
Embrace the madness this Thanksgiving; The Oath is streaming for free on Kanopy or available to rent on most VOD platforms.
10. The Last Thanksgiving (2020)
When The Last Thanksgiving crossed my radar as a new addition to the paltry smattering of Thanksgiving-themed horror films, I was intrigued, but my expectations were low. I hoped for, at best, a silly, campy romp with some shlocky B-movie charm.
Is it ridiculous and campy? Absolutely. But it’s also endlessly better than anticipated.
The concept is ludicrous but entertaining. A cannibalistic family takes it as a personal affront that not everyone appreciates Thanksgiving as much as they should, so, they ritualistically hunt and kill the worst offenders. This year, the source of their Turkey Day vengeance is a group of unfortunate restaurant employees forced to work during the holiday.
Obvious true-blue horror fan Erick Lorinc helms this ‘80s slasher throwback, making his directorial debut. He gains extra genre cred from the addition of iconic scream queen Linnea Quigley to the cast.
From the start, I found myself laughing hysterically and rooting for this endearing cast of misfits. This is the kind of film where the kills are a blast to watch, but you hate seeing any of the characters die. Even the villains are charming as hell.
If you don’t typically eat up cheesy slashers, this may not be the film for you. It’s definitely not high-brow horror. But it’s insanely fun and exceedingly entertaining for those with an affinity for horror’s golden age of masked madmen, kickass final girls, and buckets of blood.
Fun and memorable death scenes, plenty of gore, loads of references and easter eggs, characters you care about, bountiful humor, and solid acting make The Last Thanksgiving a top recommendation.