Thanksgiving (R. 108 minutes)
We've all seen television footage of frenzied shoppers elbowing each other out of the way as the doors open for the Thanksgiving holiday Black Friday sales in American shopping centres, and we've had our own thoughts and feelings about that kind of behaviour.
The genius idea behind horror filmmaker Eli Roth's new features takes that surging crowd of shoppers and makes it the element of horror, like a surging zombie horde in an ...of the Dead film, and everything in their way will fall before them.
It's only the film's opening scene, this frenzied shopper as frenzied zombie, but it has a high body count with inventively staged deaths (note this film is rated R) and it sets up the plot to come, moving from a single great idea to a more formulaic horror narrative.
A posse of photogenic high schoolers are heading out for a night on the town but as football jock Evan (Tomaso Sanelli) has lost his phone he demands they stop by enormous electronics store owned by the folks of Gabby (Addison Rae).
It is Black Friday, there are a few hundred shoppers ready to grab some bargains, but Evan and his stupid mates start antagonising them from inside the store, setting off a chain reaction of terrifying behaviour. A handful of deaths result, including that of one of the store security guards and the wife (Gina Gershon) of the store manager.
A year later, the small Massachusetts town is still healing.
But the night has spawned a disturbed person who has spent the intervening year planning revenge on the folk whose behaviour that evening caused the deaths, and one by one people who can be recognised in social media shot that night begin dying in gruesome ways.
The killer stalks the town and signals that Evan, Gabby and their friends are the ultimate target.
The local Sheriff (Patrick Dempsey) enlists Gabby's help, hoping to set a trap for this killer.
Eli Roth is one of a handful of directors who helped take hard-core horror mainstream in the early 2000s with films like Cabin Fever and Hostel.
He was so white-hot in 2007 that Quentin Tarantino invited him to shoot one of the fake film trailers for his and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse double feature.
His contribution was a film trailer for an imagined parody mash-up of seasonal celebrations and horror, with participants in a Thanksgiving parade getting massacred and the narrator promising that, like a turkey, 'All will be carved!'
Roth gets the chance here to elaborate on this idea, and for the most part, this isn't a single idea that wears out its welcome, it's a fun whodunit.
The Thanksgiving dressings aren't as resonant for an Australian audience, though our overimmersion in American television makes it familiar.
The bad guy dresses up in a pilgrim hat and a John Carver mask and I had to Google to find out Carver was the first governor of the Plymouth colony founded by the Mayflower passengers.
The mask-wearing horror baddie isn't a new thing, but films from Scream through to Happy Death Day have helped make a simple mask a terrifying bit of costume.
Roth, for the most part, gives us a joyous experience - that is assuming you have enough of a stomach to enjoy the amusing staging of film horror and gore. But his screenplay and the film's editing get a little muddy. The inventiveness of its opening is merely cut and paste by the end.