There’s a correct method to jamming two corncob holders into a teenager’s ears for maximum terror. Eli Roth has known the way since he was a kid in Massachusetts, shooting horror movies in his backyard and coming up with kills that would eventually find their way into his new slasher, Thanksgiving, 40 years later. The gag is simple: Start with the corn picks tucked in the screen victim’s ear, yank them out at full-speed, and make sure the actor is screaming at the beginning and surprised at the end. When it’s all played in reverse, the practical effect looks absolutely gruesome — or, for a horror movie, perfect.
“It’s the cheapest gag in the world, but I love that stuff,” the director tells Polygon on a call ahead of Thanksgiving’s release. The movie is full of “that stuff” — grisly, campy, low-lift kills that sound like nightmares on paper, but are pure catnip when executed by a horror craftsman who revels in the limbo between horror and comedy. “I want the audience cackling and hiding their eyes, going, ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this! How much farther is this going to go?!’ And when I’m shooting it, I shoot everything.”
And he does mean everything. In Thanksgiving, one victim gets seasoned, basted, and roasted in an oven, then served for dinner. There’s no implication of fiery death — audiences get a whole mouthful of the convection execution. Eli Roth has returned.
Eli Roth will always have the reputation of a “horror guy,” even if cranial splatter is, today, only a fraction of his business. After Roth broke out with 2003’s unnervingly weird Cabin Fever, Hollywood wanted him to be that guy, and he happily accepted his role as a fresh-faced provocateur. When New York Magazine slammed his follow-up film, 2005’s HRead more on polygon.com