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No Wishbone Wins Can Save Amityville Thanksgiving

Natalie Peri as Jackie Defiore

There’s an almost admirable brazenness to the awful Amityville Thanksgiving. It unflinchingly inflicts drunk uncle-caliber dialogue on the audience while trying to juggle plot twists that neither twist nor deliver much plot. The film does benefit from some surprisingly sincere performances, but it’s lipstick on a turkey headed for the chopping block. Eating raw gobbler may cause less intestinal distress than watching Amityville Thanksgiving, yet there are a few laughs among its cringeworthy content.

The plot is a cornucopia of concepts flung at the wall. Nothing sticks leaving a mess overall. However, that never stops Amityville Thanksgiving from powering forward.

The general plot follows a married couple named Jackie and Danny Defiore, played by Natalie Peri and Paul Faggione. Hoping to resolve numerous marital difficulties, they’ve employed the help of therapist Dr. Frank Demonico portrayed by Mark C. Fullhardt. Unfortunately, he isn’t really interested in helping them heal. Demonico has his own nefarious intentions. What ensues is an attempt at a psycho-sexual suspense thriller with supernatural overtones.

Mark C. Fullhardt, Natalie Peri, and Paul Faggione as Dr. Demonico and the Defiores in Amityville Thanksgiving
Mark C. Fullhardt, Natalie Peri, and Paul Faggione as Dr. Demonico and the Defiores in Amityville Thanksgiving

Unlike canned cranberry sauce, not much of the plot to Amityville Thanksgiving holds together. Twists often feel unnecessary at best while at worst contrived, and in many ways, the movie is just overstuffed. There’s a kind of comedy to the way new narrative threads arrive as subtle as a rock through a window, but nothing is ever allowed enough time to really develop. It feels more like a barfly sh*tting its pants as a punchline. The worst cinema sin, though, is the movie’s overreliance on exposition dumps.

Most of the story is moved forward by Mark C. Fullhardt recording what are presumably video diaries. Looking into the camera, he simply says what happened and why. Much of this gets repeated in the dialogue between characters making these sorts of confessions pointless, but that said, everything is delivered with the grace of a dropped sack of gizzards.

Others may be more inclined to criticize the film’s obvious low-budget nature. Repetitious bland shots reusing the same settings over and over imply a lack of locations—most of the movie seems to have been shot at someone’s house over the weekend—but those technical limitations could be saved by quality dialogue performed well. Amityville Thanksgiving possesses little of that.

Julie Ann Prescott as a screaming bloody ghost in Amityville Thanksgiving
Julie Ann Prescott in Amityville Thanksgiving

Fortunately, this isn’t the type of shlock feature where performers try to act badly. It’s clear the cast is putting in sincere effort even if it’s beyond their talents to be totally believable. Although that gives some exchanges an odd, infrequent plausibility, it isn’t enough to baste this burnt bird into something edible. Worse, those passable performances become less and less frequent as the main cast is killed off, replaced at the end by people who seem to be struggling to read cue cards right in front of them.

It’s hard to believe writer/director Will Collazo Jr. isn’t aiming for something a little tongue-in-cheek. Dialogue often feels less scripted and more like an amateur improv class was given an outline. Paul Faggione is especially good at hitting his plot points, but like most improv, segments go on well beyond their welcome. Even if the humor is solely from a source of schadenfreude, laughing as the film fails, it isn’t enough to salvage Amityville Thanksgiving.

Still, boxes of wine shared among friends may make this movie a strange treat on Thanksgiving. With a runtime of only an hour and twelve minutes, the film isn’t long enough to rob an entire evening from folks. Plus, Mark C. Fullhardt delivers some sexually explicit lines that are guaranteed to cause spit takes. It’s like walking in on your grandpa reading graphic porn out loud.

Jackie Defiore sits on the bed unaware of the haunting presence lurking behind her in Amityville Thanksgiving, Natalie Peri and Forrest Bennett
Beware the lurking Reaper.

That said, potential audiences should be forewarned. Amityville Thanksgiving also features a segment involving a homosexual couple that could be considered problematic. The scene might charitably be called blundered inclusivity, but even if it doesn’t rub a viewer the wrong way, the moment derails a movie already off the tracks. Call it the cinematic equivalent of chopping off a turkey’s head and then firing a shotgun down its neck hole to make sure the bird is dead.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that Amityville Thanksgiving has next to nothing to do with the holiday. Part of the premise is Dr. Demonico inviting the Defiores to spend Thanksgiving weekend at his remote cabin as a last-ditch intensive effort to save their marriage. This ties into a sinister series of disappearances which, again, has nothing to do with the holiday. The Amityville connection is thin but given certain supernatural elements, one can let it slide. It’s just a shame since Thanksgiving is a largely untapped season for horror.

The movie missed a real opportunity by settling for a clickbait title. And I say that admitting I full well fell for the lure. The poster is fabulous while the tagline it bears is worthy of a shlock chef’s kiss: “Get Stuffed Mother Clucker.” It’s too bad the film isn’t as worthy of an al bacio.

Amityville Thanksgiving soars as high as a turkey can fly. Still, no one going into a viewing is likely to mistake what’s about to ensue. This is a pervy drunk uncle’s satanic rant. The tiniest bit of gore arrives like a pin drop of gravy on turkey drier than the Atacama Desert, while even the credits, opening and closing, feel like a fail. Unfortunately, scattered laughs stemming from cringes can’t save Amityville Thanksgiving.

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Written by Jay Rohr

J. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history and wandering the city at odd hours. In order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life he writes the blog www.honestyisnotcontagious.com and makes music in the band Beerfinger. His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.

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