Most people tend to think horror is exclusive to summer camps and Halloween night but, as any fervent fan will tell you, horror is year-round. Just as fall begins and the cold starts to set in, the autumnal season is the perfect time to muster up some scares.
Once All Hallow's Eve has passed, Americans get ready for what is arguably the biggest holiday of the year: Thanksgiving. Like in real life, movie characters contend with awkward family gatherings and hectic Black Friday sales this month. Yet in horror, there's more danger afoot. So, hide the carving knife and double-check the cranberry sauce because we've ranked ten of the best horror movies set at Thanksgiving.
10 Home Sweet Home (1981)
It is Thanksgiving and the Bradleys are doing what every other American family is doing that day. They have come together for a bountiful, traditional family dinner that will actually be their last. An uninvited guest has arrived with an appetite for pain. This homicidal patient from a nearby mental hospital has escaped, and he's chosen the Bradleys to be his first victims!
You have likely never heard of Home Sweet Home (also known as Slasher in the House). It is one of those films that got lost among the crowd of other Halloween copycats. As expected, it is more derisive than not. And aside from its unintentional humor, a lack of availability on home video nowadays is the most unique thing about the film.
9 The Intruder (2019)
A younger couple tired of the city life moves into a countryside house sold by an unusual widower who cannot seem to move on with his life. The wife takes pity on the man and even invites him to visit. However, her husband is less trusting as he believes the previous owner has ulterior motives for befriending the couple.
The Intruder is clearly inspired by domestic thrillers from yesteryears. Although, it doesn't renovate the house so much as it settles in and keeps the existing furniture. Nevertheless, the performances are fairly solid despite Dennis Quaid restraining himself when he could have played things crazier.
8 Hostile Takeover (1988)
A skeleton crew working overtime during the Thanksgiving holiday is suddenly held hostage by an unnervingly calm madman named Eugene Brackin. Now, the police wait outside, trying to negotiate with Brackin. The only problem, however, is that the co-workers' captor has no demands.
This low-budget-looking and quirky character study also goes by the name of Devastator in some parts. It features the coolly British actor David Warner (Tron) as the enigmatic hostage-taker. His underplaying, as well as the offbeat and near surreal mood of Hostile Takeover, make this thriller a surprisingly fruitful watch.
7 Dean Koontz's Intensity (1997)
When Chyna spends Thanksgiving with her friend Laura and her family, a serial killer named Edgler breaks in. He murders everyone but Chyna and then takes her hostage. Locked away in a seemingly inescapable, isolated house, Chyna frantically searches for a way to get out before Edgler returns.
Interest in the gripping miniseries Intensity picked up after the release of Alexandre Aja's High Tension in 2003. Without a doubt, they share a strikingly similar setup. Aja has admitted to having read Dean Koontz's novel; the author didn't pursue legal action, though. Because he found High Tension distasteful, Koontz wanted to distance himself from the movie.
6 Kristy (2014)
Justine is able to attend a private university because of financial aid. So when Thanksgiving nears, she is unable to fly home for the holiday. She would have had her roommate to keep her company that weekend, but she ends up leaving, too. Left on her own, Justine then becomes the target of a group of masked killers who follow her back to campus.
Kristy taps into the paranoia surrounding cyber-cults and applies it to this bloodily spun slasher with a Thanksgiving backdrop. That general loneliness attached to wintry holidays is effectively mixed with survivalist terror.
5 The Oath (2018)
In a time when the country's citizens are "asked" to sign a loyalty oath to the President, one family has an unforgettable Thanksgiving dinner. The get-together is undercut by the approaching deadline to sign the oath, which drives infomaniac Chris and his relatives apart. Things escalate when government agents show up and sternly try to convince Chris to sign. One bad thing leads to another, and this divided family is forced to make a difficult, life-changing choice.
The Oath is not a straightforward horror movie, but it conveys the consuming dread intrinsic to the genre. This black comedy is painfully on-the-nose about today's political climate so it's not an easy watch. What better holiday to set this kind of story than Thanksgiving, though?
4 The Stepfather (1987)
A serial killer named Jerry goes from town to town, attempting to create the ideal family before ultimately murdering his victims. He later comes across Susan and her prying daughter Stephanie, who suspects her mother's new man is not as well-adjusted as he appears to be.
The Stepfather is one horror movie that encapsulates the fall season. Its color palette is amber and blustery; its gaslighting and violence are both startling. Terry O'Quinn (Lost) nails his eerie performance as the surrogate, vicious patriarch, and Jill Schoelen (When a Stranger Calls Back) establishes yet another "final girl" role.
3 Escape Room (2019)
As her classmates leave for the Thanksgiving break, a college student named Zoey receives a strange gift: a puzzle cube. Like others who were anonymously given the same present, Zoey solves the puzzle. These six people from different walks of life are then all invited to an exclusive escape room, which turns out to be a death trap.
Escape Room is an attention-grabbing, popcorn thriller that is never too smart for its own good. In fact, its conclusion is, in hindsight, reckless. The journey to get there is still bluntly entertaining. A sequel is in the works, and it is slated to be released in November of 2020.
2 Home Movie (2008)
A pastor named David and his wife Clare have a pair of twins, Jack and Emily. Starting on Halloween, the children's behavior changes in small but noticeable ways. And as time goes on, David and Clare realize there is something entirely sinister going on with their little darlings.
Home Movie is a little-known, found-footage horror film that will rattle any unsuspecting parent. Jack and Emily's puzzling and insidious nature is what makes this hidden gem oh so creepy. The acts these kids commit here are unforeseen in addition to being brutal.
1 Blood Rage (1987)
When he was younger, Terry killed someone at a drive-in. However, he pinned the act on his twin, Todd, who was unable to defend himself as the traumatic situation rendered him speechless. He was eventually committed to a mental hospital. Ten years later, Todd escapes the institution and returns to take revenge on Terry that Thanksgiving.
Blood Rage (or Nightmare at Shadow Ridge) is an exceptionally cheesy slasher that delivers the goods when it comes to blood and splatter. The practical visual effects are also well done considering the movie's small budget.