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Salem Horror Fest ’20 Review: “The Last Thanksgiving” Is A Tasty But Not Fully Satisfying Ode To The Golden Era Holiday Slasher

Saturday, September 26, 2020 | Review

Starring: Linnea Quigley, Michael Vitovich, Madelin Marchant
Directed by Erick Lorinc
Written by Erick Lorinc

If you’ve ever contemplated the fatal potentiality of your run-of-the-mill kitchen whisk, or wondered what really went down at the first Thanksgiving, writer/director Erick Lorinc is ready to enlighten you with his new retro-styled slasher. THE LAST THANKSGIVING, which is having its East Coast premiere at this year’s Salem Horror Fest, is a homespun slice of holiday stalk ‘n slash featuring a cast of unknowns (save for one very recognizable 1980s B-movie queen) and a deadpan edge that makes for a tasty viewing experience, though the main course feels a bit under-brined.

Lisa-Marie (Samantha Ferrand) is a moody college dropout living at home with her annoying parents. Tasked with working on Thanksgiving, she and the other employees of the local greasy spoon are united in their shared misery over tending to an empty restaurant over the holiday. While Lisa-Marie’s best pal, Eddie (Branden Holzer) spends the workday making goo-goo eyes at handsome (possibly psychic?) busser, Tyler (Robert Richards Jr.), she does her best to keep a low profile and sneak off to visit her boyfriend, Buddy (Bobby Eddy), who runs the local cinema. Unfortunately for the diner’s wait staff, an already shitty holiday is about to get worse thanks to the Brimston clan (Michael Vitovich, Matthew McClure, Tristan Petashnick and Laura Finley), who are seeking unwilling guests for their yearly ritual of harvesttime cannibalism and slaughter.

Lorinc does triple duty as writer/director/editor, and though the film’s visual rhythms feel a bit busy at the start, he soon settles into an affable flow. Samantha Ferrand is a likable lead and the cast overall plays THE LAST THANKSGIVING’s mordacious workplace comedy bits just right, with Gaby Spampinato (as cranky goth, Trudie) turning in an especially charming and caustic performance. It’s in the diner setting that the film really shines, and when the murderous Brimston’s show up with their stab-happy, pilgrim-mask-wearing brother, Trip, it gets awfully close to hitting that ‘80s slasher sweet spot that so many contemporary films fail to emulate.

THE LAST THANKSGIVING, however, starts to lose its greatest asset, humor, as it branches out beyond the diner. At this point, the film begins to dismantle its winning ensemble (no surprise there: blood does have to be spilt), and never quite recovers as the Brimstons take a more central focus in the narrative, headed by McClure and Petashnick. The two inhabit their roles admirably, but the script’s late-game attempts at absurdism and gallows humor just don’t have the same snap as the earlier, more workaday stuff. That said, the film does go balls-to-the-wall in terms of gore and creative killing in the last act, delivering just the type of thrills it promises in spite of these shortcomings. THE LAST THANKSGIVING also smartly makes an effort to grapple with the central holiday’s bloody colonial history with deliberate archness, which was the best way to do it, considering that this is the type of film where the only thing more numerous than cloven heads are turkey puns.

Erick Lorinc makes a meal of the holiday slasher with, THE LAST THANKSGIVING: styling it from the ground up with retro titles, moody synth, and dressing it with references, easter eggs, and an iconic looking killer straight out of the genre’s golden era. The film is at its best before the feathers start to fly, and loses some of its considerable charm as cast members are picked off by the capotain-hatted baddie and his family. Still, THE LAST THANKSGIVING is a loving ode to holiday slashers of old, and though it may not satisfy totally, it tastes pretty good going down.

See THE LAST THANKSGIVING during the all-virtual Salem Horror Fest 2020, which runs October 2nd-4th and October 9th-11th. All Access and Weekend passes are available. For ticket information and a full programming schedule, click here

Rocco T. Thompson
Rocco is a Rondo-nominated film journalist and avid devotee of all things weird and outrageous. He penned the cover story for Rue Morgue's landmark July/Aug 2019 "Queer Fear" Special Issue, and is an associate producer on In Search of Darkness: Part III, the latest installment in CreatorVC's popular 1980s horror documentary series.