At the origin of Eli Roth’s new film, there is a fake trailer, shot in 2007: that of an imaginary horror film, Thanksgiving , which would have been made in the late 1970s or early from the 1980s, a late pastiche of a horror cinema then in full expansion three decades earlier. This trailer film accompanied Boulevard of Death (2007), by Quentin Tarantino, who expressly wanted to pay homage to the neighborhood theaters, the grindhouses , and the exploitation cinema of his youth.
The filmmaker therefore commissioned some of his friends, including director Eli Roth, to create a pastiche of a falsely vintage trailer. What was originally a condensed simulacrum of a non-existent film has therefore become a real feature film, the playful project of an ironic extrapolation. What would the entire feature film of what was only a parody of an advertising appetite look like?
Why recall the origins of Thanksgiving , the film? Because it is a way of underlining the double mise en abyme that this project constitutes, that is to say the awareness for the director and his screenwriter, Jeff Rendell, of working on trivial and old forms, perhaps outdated. being, and on conventions that we propose to resuscitate in a spirit that is both parodic and nostalgic. These conventions are those of what we call the slasher , a variant of a Saturday night horror cinema for teenagers multiplying inventive and cathartic killings. John Carpenter’s film Halloween. The Night of the Masks , in 1978, was the unsurpassed model.
What to do when you tackle a genre that is, if not obsolete, in any case constrained by the limits of its own mechanics? Wes Craven, with his Scream series, had proposed, from the end of the 1990s, a postmodern way of commenting on horror clichés, of emptying them of their primitive meaning to make them, certainly skillfully, the simple elements of a construction game by subjecting them to an infinite number of arrangements and combinations. We cannot say that Eli Roth proceeds in the same way. It is by cramming, on the contrary, the kind of diverse meanings that he makes it make a sort of qualitative leap.
Succession of assassinations
Eli Roth became known, as a filmmaker, for having enriched horror cinema with quite relevant political reflection. His Hostel series (from 2005) revealed, in a metaphorical and brutal form at the same time, the ravages of contemporary individualism corrupted by the illusion of unlimited satisfaction of each person’s desires. His new film sets its action during the Thanksgiving holiday, the American celebration of the arrival on the continent of the first pilgrims, a pretext today, in the United States, for various family reunions around a roast turkey. It turns out that this date also corresponds to that of sales in department stores, what contemporary marketing has called Black Friday.
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