Filmmaker Eli Roth considers himself “exempt” from the holiday season. First, he’s Jewish, so he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Second, he’s married to an Italian woman, so the entire family is coming over to eat brick-oven pizza on Thanksgiving. Luckily, being exempt also includes not having to participate in Black Friday shopping.

“On Black Friday, we just sit back, and we’re like, ‘What the hell is going on?’” Roth, 51, told MySA during an interview this week to talk about his new horror movie Thanksgiving. “It’s insane. We have nothing to do with it. I’ve never been to a Black Friday sale.”

Roth, however, has seen some of the viral Black Friday videos featuring customers fighting over things like big screen TVs and George Foreman grills. The videos were the inspiration for his new movie, which is sure to make fans of his slasher flicks like Hostel and Cabin Fever feel like Christmas has come early.

Thanksgiving is adapted from a fake trailer Roth directed that was inserted into the 2007 film Grindhouse from directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Two other fake trailers from Grindhouse – Machete and Hobo with a Shotgun – were also made into movies a few years ago.

Roth expanded his 2-minute trailer into a feature film set in the small town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, where a group of teens and a sheriff (Patrick Dempsey) are trying to track down an axe-wielding serial killer who may or may not be seeking revenge for a tragedy that took place on Black Friday the year before.

During an interview with Roth, who is also known for his role as the Bear Jew in Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, we talked about setting a horror movie on a holiday like Thanksgiving and if turkey and dressing is on the menu this year at the Roth household. We also discussed the attractiveness of Roth’s leading man, Dempsey, who was just named People’s 2023 Sexiest Man Alive.

We’ve had horror movies set on Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Why did it take so long for someone to embrace the joys of Thanksgiving the way you did for this new film?

Well, I’ve been waiting for this movie since I was a kid. I grew up in Massachusetts, and my best friend and I saw every holiday slasher – New Year’s Evil, My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day, Mother’s Day, Halloween, Silent Night, Deadly Night. Anything centered around a date. Thanksgiving to us was the most obvious holiday. But no one did it. I don’t think anybody figured out what was scary about it other than seeing your family or getting stuck with some relatives you hate.

So, what sparked the idea for the movie years after the fake trailer debuted in ‘Grindhouse’?

We loved the symbolism of the pilgrim running around killing on Thanksgiving. But it wasn’t until we saw the Black Friday trampling videos that we realized we really struck upon our theme of the commercialization of Christmas bleeding over into a holiday that’s supposed to be about being thankful. Even now, when it turns November 1, as soon as Halloween is over, my phone started getting text messages saying, “Black Friday sale! Black Friday sale! Black Friday sale!” There’s no Thanksgiving anymore. You go from Halloween to Black Friday to Christmas. So, watching those videos and seeing people trample each other for electronics and waffle irons, we thought it was really fertile ground for a horror film.

Why did you set ‘Thanksgiving’ in present time instead of making it like a 70s or 80s slasher like it was in the fake trailer?

I think the fake trailer in Grindhouse worked because it was sandwiched in between Planet Terror and Death Proof (the features directed by Rodriguez and Tarantino that made up Grindhouse). The joke was that you’re going to a cinema to see a double bill and these are the fake trailers. I think if you take that out, it doesn’t extrapolate into a full movie. The intention when we were 12 years old was never to make a fake 70s or 80s movie. It was always to make a real film. I wanted a real proper slasher movie. There’s language that I really wanted to stick to. But that wasn’t enough for me. I also wanted it to be a modern movie that incorporates modern technology.

What’s your role for Thanksgiving this year? Do you just have to show up and eat or do you have to work for your meal?

I’m working for it. The whole family is coming to my house this year. My wife’s Italian, so I built this beautiful brick oven for pizza. So, we’re going to be making pizzas. But making pizza is like making a horror movie. If you go too much on the gore, it somehow overpowers the flavor. You need the right balance. If you have too much cheese, it gets too watery, and the pizza sticks to the stone in the pizza oven. So, you need the perfect sauce, olive oil, and the right amount of cheese and basil.

It sounds like you’re going to spend a lot of quality time with family. Can you sympathize with people who find Thanksgiving horrible for the same reason?

You know, I think people love being with their family or they absolutely dread it. It’s either their favorite time of the year or their least favorite time of the year. I wanted to make something fun. So, if people love their family, they can all go see [Thanksgiving] together. And if people want to get the hell away from their family, they can run out and go see a fun horror movie.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, what’s your favorite and least favorite side dish when you eat a customary Thanksgiving meal?

I love homemade cranberry sauce. My least favorite side dish is a human head because everybody fights over the eyeballs and the tongue.

Aw, I’m a fan of the canned jelly cranberry sauce.

Nah, I like homemade cranberry sauce. Why would you make all this food and then get cranberry out of a can? That’s like cheating. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

For me, the cranberry jelly in a can just hits different, I don’t know. Anyway, white or brown gravy on your mashed potatoes?


How many servings of food do you eat?

You know, Thanksgiving dinner is like a horror movie. If you gross them out too much, they can become sick. I like getting one plate and then going back for seconds. Sometimes, if you go back for that third plate, you’ll want to throw up and you can’t look at food anymore. I want everyone to stuff their face just before that last bite where they’re like, “Oh, no. That was too much.”

Are you watching the entire football game after dinner or falling asleep before halftime?

I generally am asleep as soon as I eat my food. I go from food to the couch. And then I wake up and eat dessert and then go back to the couch. And then I wake up in the middle of the night and eat and then I go back to the couch, and I wait for the morning, and eat. It’s OK to eat-sleep.

If there was a potluck Thanksgiving dinner, what would the Bear Jew bring to share?

The bat – just in case people get out of line or annoying.

Is Patrick Dempsey really as sexy as everyone makes him out to be?

I think sex knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter who you are. Patrick Dempsey just radiates sexiness. In fact, when I was directing him, I’d say, “Patrick, we’re making a horror movie. I need you to be a little less sexy because you’re just a small-town sheriff. You’re trying to solve a crime here. You’re just solving it too sexily.” He was like, “OK, I’ll make it less sexy for this take.”

This interview was first published at

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