Written by: Jordan Downey, Mike Will Downey, and Kevin Stewart
Directed by: Jordan Downey
Starring: Daniel Usaj, Joe Hartzler, and Jordan Downey
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
“Get over me Rhonda! You were nothing more than just a good piece of moon poon."
In case you haven’t heard by now, fret not—you didn’t miss a ThanksKilling sequel, as the guys behind the surprise 2009 cult hit are taking the missing reel gag from Grindhouse to an extreme by touting ThanksKilling 3 as “the first movie to skip its own sequel.” Given the repetitive nature of slasher franchises, one might assume that it’s a joke at the genre’s expense, but this latest offering is actually a strange beast that barely resembles its predecessor. Less a slasher retread and more of a deranged fever dream, ThanksKilling 3 is one of the most bizarre and creative sequels I’ve encountered, even if I’m not quite sure I comprehend a lot of it.
Taking a page from the New Nightmare and Human Centipede II books, the film goes meta with the revelation that ThanksKilling is merely a movie that wound up spawning a sequel. Apparently, we should consider ourselves lucky to have skipped a follow-up, as the space-bound ThanksKiling 2 was dubbed one of the worst movies of all time, and its studio has set out to destroy all copies of the film. Star Turkie (voiced by director/writer Jordan Downey) has settled into a sitcom-esque existence (think Married…With Children with a foul-mouthed turkey) and learns about his movie’s fate during the evening news. Enraged, he resumes his homicidal ways and sets out to track down the world’s last remaining copy of ThanksKilling 3, which happens to rest in the hands of a young muppet who has literally lost her mind.
Young Yomi isn’t alone, though, and firing off the roster of bizarre characters and places that Turkie meets can at least reveal the tip of the iceberg of total weirdness that is ThanksKilling 3: A space robot with a bi-sexual, spacefaring earthworm. Turkie’s own son, who is somehow trapped within the ThanksKilling 2 DVD cover. A grizzled wise turkey. A pair of brothers decked out in colonial wigs who dream of opening an amusement park called Thanksgivingland. Their gangster-rapping granny. An elaborate, mechanized turkey processor that sends its victims to a hellscape reminiscent of Jigoku, only it’s lined with animal carcasses. There’s impromptu musical numbers, inter-dimensional vortexes, and animated bits, all of which contribute to a cornucopia of non-sequiturs here.
How it all comes together isn’t exactly clear, nor does it seem to be a particular concern of Downey and company, who have seemingly set out to craft The Dark Crystal if it were re-imagined by David Lynch. That it revolves around a homicidal turkey intent on recovering a copy of his own shitty movie (so shitty, in fact, that viewing it results in death) has me assuming that ThanksKilling 3 is supposed to lampoon meta-fictional movies that disappear up their own asshole, but who knows? While it certainly gets lost in its labyrinthine nonsense, it’s weirdly compelling, occasionally funny, and oddly atmospheric; maybe it doesn’t make complete (or any) sense, but it’s admirable how the crew has conjured up such a controlled burst of surrealist insanity. Unless drugs are involved, I don’t even think it’s possible to have nightmares that are this strange.
It also goes without saying that it’s one of the most confounding follow-ups of all-time; we’ve seen sequels go different directions before, but this one’s not even on the same planet as its predecessor. Whereas ThanksKilling was a straightforward homage/parody of 80s slashers, this is something altogether different. In fact, it largely resists any sort of genre labels and is so overly-complicated that one wonders how we arrived from point A to point B. If nothing else, ThanksKilling 3 might be a humorous piss-take at franchise progression; if launching your icon off into space is the death knell, then what comes next must be a fevered, incoherent death rattle where any and all meaning is sacrificed for dumb gags and one-liners.
To its credit, ThanksKilling 3 only aims to be silly and not outright “bad” like so many ignorant Grindhouse riffs have done. Aside from some intentionally visible wirework with its puppets, the film is an incredibly sturdy production that benefits from a $100,000 budget. That sounds incredibly cheap, but it’s about thirty times more than Downey had at his disposal for the first film, and it shows. ThanksKilling 3 might be a dumb, outrageous, juvenile puppet show, but it’s also a well-produced one that features impressive effects work, slick cinematography (the colors especially pop), a wonderfully immersive electronic score, and cool, inventive sets that bring this demented world to life. Even though its plot practically dares you to abandon any notion of coherence, the film at least looks great and can never be considered boring (which might make it a homage to the darkest recesses of Eurohorror).
Considering the franchise’s humble roots, it took a lot of guts to come up with a sequel that’s so alienating; I’ll admit that it might have been more satisfying to see a more traditional slasher sequel that would have essentially been ThanksKilling on a bigger budget, but Downey earns some credit for not taking that easy route. Granted, his result may be a little too weird, and even that might be some sort of strange accomplishment: somehow, he created a film centered on a killer turkey that might demand a revisit just in order to figure out what the hell’s going on.
I’m not so sure I’ll be doing that anytime soon, but MVD has put together a fine DVD edition if I ever feel like scratching that particular itch. The presentation is excellent, from the pristine transfer to the dynamic 5.1 Dolby Digital track, and the disc is stuffed with extra features. Dubbed “fowl content,” the supplements include some “behind-the-beak” featurettes, a faux infomercial, a music video, trailers, stills gallery, and two audio commentaries with creators Downey and Kevin Stewart (one is billed as the “technical” track, while the other serves as the “how did we get here?” track). That you can also play the film with a drinking game probably says a lot more about it than I ever could—it’s certainly one big joke of a movie, and yet it’s somehow not nearly as insufferable as other films of its type. Perhaps because it has some sense of heart, which is something all the faux-grain and intentionally poor effects in the world can’t really replicate. Rent it!
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