From trailer to movie: How director Eli Roth finally made ‘Thanksgiving’

Director Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving movie journey started in 2006, when his friends Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were working on their double feature Grindhouse. To add to the double-feature experience, Tarantino asked his friends — including Roth — to create fake trailers that would appeal to the Grindhouse crowd. Roth knew exactly what he wanted to do.

In his youth and teenage years, Roth and his friend Jeff Rendell, who would co-write Thanksgiving, took in a steady diet of horror films, consuming VHS after VHS of carnage, chaos and gore. And one special subgenre kept them busy.

“We came of age in the early ’80s, the golden era of the holiday slasher movie,” he recalled. “Black Christmas, Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day, New Year’s Evil… When we saw Silent Night, Deadly Night, we cheered the mayhem while the Santa Claus killer yelled, ‘PUNISH!’ This, to us, was cinema at its peak.”

For the fake trailer requested by Tarantino, Roth saw the perfect opportunity to create a trailer for an American holiday that Hollywood horror movies had yet to celebrate: Thanksgiving.

Rendell and Roth wrote the trailer, and as Roth was completing filming on Hostel Part II, he had access to locations, actors, even fake heads from that film to immortalize it.