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Ah, Thanksgiving, a time for turkey, a time for football, a time for... family-centered terror? Well, depending on your family, that might be the case in real life, but it can also be the case on your couch after the bird's been devoured and the relatives have all gone home. Sure, Halloween is the classic horror holiday, but when you're zonked out in a turkey coma, a good scare might be exactly the thing you need to perk things back up.
So, from horror films that take place on Thanksgiving to horror films that just seem to suit the vibe, here are 10 scary movies to check out this Turkey Day.
Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County (1998)
Before The Blair Witch Project set off a new found-footage horror boom, there was The McPherson Tape, an alien abduction story from the point-of-view of a camcorder documenting a family celebration. The 1989 film was successful enough to land a higher-budget remake in 1998, again directed by Dean Alioto, this time trading the birthday party of the first film for a family Thanksgiving that's suddenly disrupted by a spacecraft and some strange creatures. It's a bit hard to find now, and perhaps a bit less effective than its lower-budget predecessor, but if you'd like a tense alien story with a turkey in the center of the table, it's definitely worth a visit.
Blood Rage (1987)
Perhaps the most successful slasher film to take place on Thanksgiving, Blood Rage makes up for its low budget with pure, unadulterated murderous madness. The film centers on twin brothers (Mark Soper and Mark Soper) one of whom was committed to an asylum years earlier, and the murderous rampage that erupts one Thanksgiving when the committed brother escapes and the family dynamic changes. If you still haven't seen it, the less you know going in about this twisted Oedipal nightmare, the better.
Blood Relatives (2022)
Noah Segan's feature directorial debut doesn't take place on Thanksgiving, but the family dynamic at its center still makes it the perfect film to settle in and watch with a slice of pumpkin pie. The story of a lone vampire (Noah Segan) who learns that he has a daughter (Victoria Moroles), it's both a wonderfully unpredictable horror-comedy and a thoughtful, emotional family journey. (Blood Relatives premieres on Shudder on Nov. 22)
There's always that one person who ends up alone during the holidays, and Kristy exploits that feeling to great effect. Oliver Blackburn's film follows a college student (Haley Bennett) who has to stay in her dorm over the Thanksgiving holidays. But while she's prepared to settle in for a weekend of studying, a group of masked murderers have other plans. Tense, creepy, and featuring some genuinely innovative kills, it's an underseen Thanksgiving horror gem.
The Mist (2007)
Yes, Frank Darabont's acclaimed adaptation of Stephen King novella of the same name has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. We know. We also know that there's no bad time to watch The Mist, and that if nothing else this film will remind you of the terror that is walking into a crowded supermarket with just a day or two to go until the turkey goes in the oven.
The Oath (2018)
More black comedy than outright horror film, Ike Barinholtz's The Oath will still leave you deeply uncomfortable with its tale of a family Thanksgiving hamstrung by a looming deadline for a dystopian government oath of allegiance. It's tense from the very first moment, but it's also quite funny, and by the time the absolutely bonkers third act is unfolding, you'll be way too wide awake for that turkey nap.
A wealthy mother trying to create the perfect Thanksgiving for her family hires a pair of Plymouth re-enactors to deliver an authentic holiday experience. But when they arrive, these Pilgrims aren't just here to make the turkey and talk a little bit about the first Thanksgiving. What happens next is a dark descent into violence that's also an interesting commentary on appropriation and the ways we lie to ourselves about the holiday's roots.
Ready or Not (2019)
Anyone's who's been through that awkward first Thanksgiving with a partner's relatives, or anyone who's doing that this Thanksgiving, can look to Ready or Not for comfort. Sure, the celebration at the heart of the movie isn't Turkey Day, but this wild horror-comedy from Radio Silence is all about what happens when you realize your new family's traditions are completely unhinged, and more importantly, how you survive them.
No Thanksgiving horror list would be complete without ThanksKilling, the killer turkey movie produced for a few thousand dollars in 2007 which seemed tailor-made from the beginning for "so bad it's good" cult classic territory. Yes, it's goofy. Yes, it's extremely low-budget. But it's also a movie about a killer turkey who murders people at Thanksgiving, and that's just good clean fun. Plus, there are two higher-budget sequels to look forward to.
You're Next (2011)
You're Next is about a family reunion, not Thanksgiving, but just like You're Next, it remains deeply satisfying for anyone who's ever had to spend the holiday with a weird family that you'd rather not get to know that well. It's got a great final girl, some truly incredible sequences of violence, and lots of dark comedy to keep things just a bit lighter. In short, it's the perfect movie to end the night with. Just grab a drumstick out of the fridge and press play.
BONUS: Eli Roth's Thanksgiving trailer (2007)
You know you were thinking it. We're all thinking it. It takes three minutes. Just watch it.
Or, if you don't want to watch a horror movie on Thanksgiving, you can stream The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Peacock.