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With Thanksgiving approaching, it’s always wise to draw up a list of movies that the whole family can enjoy. Home Alone is big in our house, which is proves I am no longer in control of my own remote. I know people who watch Singing In The Rain every Thanksgiving, or Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. Given my druthers, and believe you me, I've not seen my druthers since the kids showed up, I’d watch a horror movie. Since it’s the holidays, why not a holiday-themed horror movie?
As far as the holidays, Halloween obviously holds the home field advantage, with John Carpenter’s Halloween leading the pack. There’s also the underrated Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, and anthologies like Trick Or Treat and Tales Of Halloween.
Christmas has a plethora of holiday-centric horrors, starting with the excellent Krampus, based on the European folk tale about the Krampus, essentially, a cloven-hoofed goat demon anti-Santa. Black Christmas, about a psycho terrorizing a sorority house over the holidays, is surprisingly effective. There is also the yuletide slasher epic Silent Night, Deadly Night as well as last year’s Toys Of Terror, which is about a possessed batch of Christmas presents (penned by, ahem, yours truly). If you’re really looking for yuletide scares, look no further than the Rankin/Bass stop motion classic Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer. With its intemperate Santa Claus, wanton bullying and Island of Misfit Toys, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer plays more like a Lynchian fever dream than family-friendly holiday fare, but to each his own.
And what about Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving was never a big favorite of mine. In my opinion, Thanksgiving is basically the starting pistol for the Christmas season, big for football fans and the realization that you have to start shopping. But, believe it or not, Thanksgiving does indeed have its own horror movies.
First, we have 1972’s Blood Freak. The early seventies were peak years for the “nature runs amuck” genre of horror films, where humanity’s abuse of the environment, and the creatures we share it with, finally comes back to bite us on the collective behind. I know it sounds sweaty, but two of the greatest films ever made, the original King Kong and Jaws, fit neatly into this category. Other, less lofty titles, include Frogs! (killer frogs), Food Of The Gods (giant rats and bees), the must-see Night Of The Lepus (giant bunny rabbits), Squirm (worms), and yes, Blood Freak.
Blood Freak tells the story of Herschel, back from Viet Nam and drifting through life without a purpose. He meets a young woman who tempts him into the dark world of… marijuana! Herschel is instantly hooked on the junk. Wacky weed! Satan’s paprika! To make money to support his habit, Herschel takes a job at a local turkey farm where he is paid to taste test experimental, lab grown turkeys. From there, Herschel slowly transforms into a turkey-headed, bloodthirsty maniac. Blood Freak! Terror has a wattle.
I can already hear you. “Well, I’ve heard about every turkey-themed horror movie. Now I can rest.”
Au contraire! What about Thankskilling? Thankskilling tells the story of Turkie, a demonic turkey spirit created by an angry shaman to rise from the dead every 500 years to wreak havoc. What else is it supposed to wreak? With a DVD box that boasts, “Warning! Boobs in the first second,” Thankskilling fully knows that it's funny, and is unafraid to go for intentional laughs. That’s fine. But I always prefer the Ed Woodian earnestness of a scrappy little grindhouse flick that takes itself seriously. Even when it’s the story of a Viet Nam vet hooked on pot who becomes a half man, half turkey murder machine in his quest to satisfy his weed addiction.
That movie exists, and for that, I’m grateful.
Next week, Al Adamson and Sam Sherman return to turn Russ Tamblyn loose in the biker epic, Satan’s Sadists! Have a great holiday!