Thanksgiving’s Killer Reveal Was A Callback To 2 Major Slasher Franchises – Ericatement

Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Thanksgiving (2023)


  • Thanksgiving’s killer is subtly revealed in the opening scene, giving away the identity of Patrick Dempsey’s Sheriff Newlon.
  • The opening shot is from Newlon’s perspective while mirroring a famous POV shot from Halloween‘s slasher villain Michael Myers, indicating Dempsey’s character is the killer.
  • The decision to reference Halloween and cast a well-known actor as the killer makes Thanksgiving’s ending twist predictable.

While Thanksgiving has proven a hit for director Eli Roth, the slasher movie’s earliest reference to the subgenre’s history gives away its killer in the opening scene. Thanksgiving is a darkly comic slasher movie set around the titular holiday. Adapted from a mock trailer featured in 2007’s Grindhouse, this grisly horror movie sees a masked killer pick off a group of people connected to a Black Friday stampede that occurred a year earlier. Like Roth’s original trailer, Thanksgiving is filled with gruesome deaths that utilize staples of the eponymous holiday to bloody ends, from a decapitated parade performer to a character roasted like a turkey.

While Thanksgiving is one of 2023’s highest-rated horror movies on Rotten Tomatoes, its critical success doesn’t mean that the slasher is perfect. For one thing, the notoriously nihilistic Roth holds back on some brutality, with most of Thanksgiving’s main characters escaping the movie alive. Although there are a few brutal kills, most of Thanksgiving’s deaths are doled out to minor characters, and only two of the main friend group’s seven members die before the ending. To make matters worse, the identity of the killer is given away not just in Thanksgiving’s opening scene, but in the movie’s very first shot.

Thanksgiving’s Halloween Reference Reveals the Villain’s Identity

Thanksgiving opens with a nod to John Carpenter’s seminal classic Halloween, and this reference gives away that the killer is Patrick Dempsey’s Sheriff Eric Newlon. Roth’s Thanksgiving begins with a POV shot paired with heavy breathing that is reminiscent of Halloween’s iconic opening from the murderous Michael’s perspective. However, this unsettling shot turns out to just be the local sheriff’s point of view, and it transpires that he is simply bringing a pie to a Thanksgiving dinner with friends. This immediately casts suspicion on Dempsey’s Newlon and, inevitably, the movie later reveals that he is the killer in Thanksgiving‘s closing scene.

Related: How Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving Movie Compares To Fake Grindhouse Trailer

To make matters worse, Thanksgiving provides Newlon with a pretty transparent motive seconds after this opening shot. His conversation with Gina Gershon’s flirtatious Amanda ends with her suggesting that the sheriff won’t be single for much longer. Of course, the ending of Thanksgiving sees Newlon admit that he was having an affair with Amanda and began his killing spree to avenge her death in the Black Friday stampede. While the yet-unconfirmed Thanksgiving 2 might provide a more satisfying killer reveal, this twist was as predictable as they come thanks to the decision to reference Halloween immediately before introducing Newlon. This choice makes it clear that the character isn’t trustworthy.

Thanksgiving’s Killer Reveal Keeps A Weird 2023 Slasher Trend Alive

While Thanksgiving’s nod to Halloween and Amanda’s conversation with Newlon both make the killer’s identity easier to guess, the final killer clue is one that the filmmakers couldn’t have avoided. Newton is played by Patrick Dempsey, the movie’s biggest older star, much like Scream 6’s killer was played by Dermot Mulroney, the only famous actor over forty in the newly-introduced main cast. Ironically, Dempsey previously starred in Scream 3 as a detective, though he was ultimately proven innocent. Since Scream 6 debuted in March 2023, it would have been difficult for Thanksgiving’s creators to predict its villain. However, for genre fans, Thanksgiving’s killer is made more obvious by the movie conforming to a recent slasher casting trend.

  • Thanksgiving 2023 Movie Poster


    Release Date:

    Eli Roth

    Addison Rae, Patrick Dempsey, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Nell Verlaque, Milo Manheim, Gina Gershon


    106 Minutes

    Horror, Thriller

    Eli Roth, Jeff Rendell

    Spyglass Media Group, Electromagnetic Productions

    TriStar Pictures