Every Thursday, I dig up a horror film I’ve never seen before in an attempt to discover hidden gems so that you don’t have to scrounge through all of the crap yourself. This week, I decided to pull Thankskilling 3 out of the oven…
…The year was 2012. Writer/director Jordan Downey, hot off the extreme success of Thankskilling, was in demand by every major studio in Hollywood. With November approaching, Downey realized that the horror genre, awash in a sea of holiday-themed slashers, had yet to produce the penultimate Thanksgiving horror film. So, camera in one hand and a rubber turkey in the other, Downey set out to make the greatest Thanksgiving horror film ever made, Thankskilling 3.
Okay, so absolutely none of that is true, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Thankskilling 3 is, in fact, the best Thanksgiving horror film ever made. Which, let’s be honest, isn’t that hard of a mountain to climb. Within the pantheon of genre films, only a few can claim the “Thanksgiving horror” title: Blood Rage, Kristy, Home Sweet Home, Into the Dark: Flesh and Blood, and of course, Thankskilling. These are the only horror films which, as far as I know, are set on the turkey-loving holiday, and all, for one reason or another, are terrible to just okay. And that’s including the original Thankskilling, which, despite its clever chaos and “classic” one liners like “gobble gobble, motherfucker,” really isn’t as funny as I need it to be in order to sit through it without mainlining alcohol into my system. So, what sets Thankskilling 3 apart from all the rest? It all starts with the plot.
Thankskilling 3 takes certain liberties often only afforded to the horror genre, completely side-stepping a traditional sequel and claiming that, in this universe, a part 2 does exist, but is known as the worst movie ever made (not surprising), and has been virtually wiped off the face of the planet…all except for one, delicious copy. After learning of the last remaining copy, fowl-mouthed villain Turkie (voiced by Downey), heads out with his cowardly son, Nibla (Preston Altree), to recover it, leading to an over the top, blood-soaked adventure unlike anything you have ever seen.
When you pop in Thankskilling 3, you’ll learn pretty quickly whether or not this film is for you. The opening shot is of a female astronaut (Wanda Lust) floating through space while wearing a questionably effective suit which has her breasts exposed. Imagine that conversation with Downey. Lust asks, “Why would I have my boobs out in space?”, to which Downey would probably say, “Because go with it, that’s why”. And go with it you must, because if you don’t, then the laser-firing turkey baster/ship and captain Pie-lett (yes, it’s an actual pie voiced by David Cronin), are only going to furrow your brows tighter as you ask, what the fuck is this movie? But the answer is simple: it’s the best damned Thanksgiving horror movie ever made, that’s what it is.
That’s because, as offensive, cheap, and just flat out stupid as it may be at points, it’s also a ridiculously fun sci-fi horror film which stretches the boundaries of your imagination so tight the damn thing comes close to ripping in half. Downey crams as much silliness as he possibly can into this overstuffed turkey, with loads of Jim Henson style Muppets in lead roles, talking roaches, cartoons that are definitely not meant for kids, a mustachioed bisexual worm and his robotic lover, killer turkeys, robotic turkeys, turkeys which vomit Exorcist style, and of course, a turkey who replaces his baby-maker with a freaking chainsaw! Have I lost you yet?
Thanskilling 3 is so absurdly entertaining, between all of the above and Downey’s so-insane-he-might-be-brilliant writing, that it’s a crime Downey hasn’t gone on to do much since this. The mind-numbing lunacy of the script is so bonkers, that the audience doesn’t even care that they have no clue what’s going on, because Downey has us all hypnotized by bizarre imagery and a fantastic retro-soundtrack by Zain Effendi. In a sense, Thankskilling 3 is like an extended episode of South Park. The writing, while not as strong, is similarly vulgar though comical, and the voice acting is equally terrible. This is gluttonous portions of sweet potato pie topped with fruit rollups and gummi worms just because.
If one were to compare Thankskilling to Thankskilling 3, you might be shocked to discover the same director was behind each film. The first time around, you get the sense that Downey was still finding his footing as a filmmaker with Thankskilling, but here, only a few years later, he returns with a bigger, better version of that film that is practically incomparable in how superior it is. Downey has mastered the tone he’s going for in Thankskilling 3, flexing his ability to tread multiple genres. In one scene alone, Downey takes us from a sitcom setting (bright lighting, laugh track, and all), to a domestic drama and suddenly a horror film, and he does so seamlessly. Downey expresses a true love for geek culture, spoofing Star Wars, Evil Dead, and even early 90s videogames, with an exceptionally awesome “video game style” fight scene towards the end. The effects are bloodier, the production design grander, and the cinematography is spectacularly atmospheric and impressive for such a low budget.
The characters are much stronger too, replacing a bunch of whiny teens with Daniel Usaj (Uncle Donny) who comes off as sort of a kind, poor man’s Danny McBride. It’s also the characters that make Thankskilling 3 the ultimate Thanksgiving horror film. Yomi (also Downey), is just a sweet Muppet-thing that wants to “find Thanksgiving”, with Uncle Donny and his companion Jefferson (Joe Hartzler) amongst those helping her on her quest. The relationships between the characters have all of the components you want to see in a Thanksgiving film, including friendship, trust, and of course, love. These characters all represent the themes of the holiday unlike most other Thanksgiving horror films, and the film actually has something to do with the damn holiday, referencing it frequently unlike its counterparts. Plus, it has the components of your average holiday-themed film, which basically just means it’s insane, in things like time travel, turkey hell, and so on, not to mention everything else I’ve already described.
Thankskilling 3 plays out like an adult kid’s movie. Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Happytime Murders, films like these are all spiritual brethren of Thankskilling 3. It has the feeling of waking up as a kid and watching cartoons on Thanksgiving morning, only instead of Rudolph lighting the way with his nose so bright, you have Turkie slicing his way through gender-neutral Muppet guts. I imagine this film has long been a guilty pleasure for those that have seen it. I’m not talking the sort of guilty pleasure where you laugh and admit you like it to your friends, I’m talking the sort of guilty pleasure where you drive out to a secret hotel in the middle of the desert where you keep a lockbox buried with a copy for you to watch all alone, surrounded by cockroaches and whatever form of shame was left on the sheets. But not any longer. Thankskilling 3 may not be a traditionally “good” movie, but damnit, it deserves to be recognized as the horror film which fans dust off every Thanksgiving after a long day of drinking and fighting with family…at least until we get something better. Come for the swearing, portal-hopping turkeys, stay for the after-credits Muppet rap video. This is one horror movie I’ll always be thankful for.
Thankskilling 3 is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
By Matt Konopka