Monday, August 3, 2020

Throwback Thanksgiving

Holiday horror is always welcome, particularly when it celebrates something other than Christmas. Despite being one of the few truly "for all" American holidays, Thanksgiving just doesn't get the same due as its yuletide counterpart. Hence, anything with killer turkeys or murderous pilgrims will indeed have my support.

Quick Plot: Cody is your typically unhappy movie teenager, meaning she's incredibly beautiful and very bitter. Her dad is obsessed with his job, while her stepmother Anna is intent on gaining the alpha status in their upper class suburban neighborhood. On the night before Thanksgiving, Cody wins a wishbone-off with her little brother, using it as a chance to ask for Anna's comeuppance.

The next day, Anna invites two historical reenactors to the home to help create a genuine pilgrim holiday. Ethan and Patience take their jobs very seriously, showing little tolerance for the ungrateful ways of their hosts. Before the Black Friday sales begin, the pilgrims have invited more of their clan over to raise barns, prepare a feast, build some stocks, and take over.

Co-written and directed by The Collector (and more importantly, The Collection)'s Marcus Dunstan, Pilgrim is part of Hulu's Into the Dark series of low budget, quick-moving horror movies. While it could easily have been expanded into something bigger, the small scale lets Dunstan tell a fast, highly entertaining story that keeps its family right at the heart. 

In more than one way, it feels like a bargain spin-off of Krampus: the premise is similar, the older sister/kid brother vibe is equally important, and lean-into-the-holiday-references spirit is in full swing. This is a movie well aware of how to balance comedy and horror, and most importantly, it understands that its audience should care about the actual humans in danger in order to be invested in their plight. Cody is smart and capable, her brother is adorable, and Anna proves to be a much more nuanced woman than the opening suggests. There's a wonderful scene where three of the characters unite to beat the cranberry sauce out of an oversized pilgrim, and it's genuinely touching to see them working together.

High Points
Anyone who's toured the Salem witch trial attractions or dug a little deeper in history class should know just how terrifying that kind of puritanical life was, and Pilgrim's Ethan and Patience offer such a wonderfully straight, terrifying portrait that feels in line

Low Points
At under 90 minutes, there is a bit of a rushed feel that is completely understandable, but still a tad limiting

Lessons Learned
Nothing relaxes a pilgrim more than reciting Bible passages and darning socks

Pilgrims may be no fun and homicidal, but they can teach some handy tips about poisonous fruit

A good hide and seek spot cannot be underrated

Pilgrim is a lot of fun, and finds just the right tone to work as a truly successful horror comedy. Head to Hulu and enjoy with a side of stuffing. 

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