In the 1980’s, holiday themed horror movies were as common as drive-in movie theaters. So it is no wonder that when 80’s horror movie fan and film maker Jordan Downey got together with his college friend Kevin Stewart, they came up with ThanksKilling, a killer idea for the most thankful day of the year.
Now available on Hulu, ThanksKilling enjoys a cult success and boasts a higher-budgeted sequel; ThanksKilling 3 (also available on Hulu). Part two does exist, but only within the confined reality of the psychotropic ThanksKilling 3—Tarantino style.
The original film tells the tale of a vengeful turkey named “Turkie”. Turkie is a cursed bird, with a foul-mouth, who is destined to kill every 505 years. Due to an early reawakening by a urinating dog, Turkie rises from his grave and begins his serial killing spree, offing every horror movie archetype ever conceived.
In an exclusive interview with iHorror.com, Director Jordan Downey explains that he and his college mate wanted to pay homage to classic horror films, while keeping it purely B-movie gratifying.
“Kevin Stewart and I were juniors in college,” says Downey, “at Loyola Marymount University, and decided we wanted to make a feature film during our summer break. We both grew up loving horror films and were always inventing terrible titles and storylines for the kind of movies that are “so bad they’re good”. So we started down that path… let’s make a low budget horror film and just have fun with it.”
Their brainstorming session was a short one. The two agreed on how they wanted the plot to play out, and what they wanted their tagline to read.
“Our two requirements were it had to be holiday themed,” Downey says, “and had to feature some kind of a silly trash-talking killer. Thanksgiving had never been featured and within minutes of our initial conversation we had the idea for a talking killer turkey and the line “Gobble, Gobble, Motherfucker.” We shot it over our summer break for $3,500, and the rest is history.”
ThanksKilling spoofs many of the popular horror films from the 80’s and 90’s. Some of the fun in the movie is picking out which classic horror films Downey is referencing. For instance, a scene involving Turkie wearing someone’s face as a mask (with a really bad adhesive mustache) is a reference to at least two horror classics.
“Some of our biggest influences were Jack Frost, Uncle Sam and Leprechaun because of the holiday connection. Turkie has a little Freddy in him and there’s some obvious Texas Chain Saw Massacre spoofs in there too. Beyond that, we just pulled from all the common themes seen in horror films especially from the 80’s.”
Although ThanksKilling has horror elements in it, Downey explains that it was born of pure comedy. The irrelevant nature of the film has many influences.
“Even though it’s labeled as a horror/ comedy we always thought of it as a straight up comedy,” Downey says, “There were never any attempts to actually be scary or creepy. We love random humor so if you like shows such as South Park, Wonder Showmen, TV Funhouse or the awesome animation website SickAnimation.com you’ll probably enjoy ThanksKilling.”
The star of the movie, “Turkie”, is actually a hand puppet that Downey voiced and maneuvered himself. With leftover art supplies and a little imagination, Downey created the smart-mouthed bird in his bathroom. Downey explains how he became involved with the voicing and operation of his star.
“I did the voice and the puppeteering, yes,” he says, “I even built the puppet in my apartment bathroom at the time. I had a bunch of leftover clay and latex from my student film that I used to sculpt, mold and paint the turkey with. The body was made out of a hunting decoy and tail feathers we bought on eBay. It was never the plan for me [to] puppeteer or do the voice but I was the cheapest option. We just didn’t have the money or the man power. I enjoy being hands on anyways so I had a blast doing both.”
As with any good horror movie from the 80’s, a wooded location is key to the plot; it provides cover for the killer and plenty of obstacles on which a running vixen can trip. ThanksKilling, keeping to its potboiler method, used Downey’s childhood home for filming.
“It was shot entirely on location in Licking County, Ohio, where I grew up. A lot of the filming is a blur because we didn’t sleep much! Honestly what I remember the most is how well the cast and crew got along. We all had such a good time together and, while sometimes delirious, we laughed to the point of tears many nights while shooting.”
With its cult status, and audience score of 43% at Rotten Tomatoes, iHorror.com asked Downey if there were any plans to make another sequel.
“As of now we don’t have any plans for more movies. We’ll never say never though. Kevin and I were so heavily involved in ThanksKilling and ThanksKilling 3, that we’d have to really really want it because they each took up a few years of our lives. We always wanted there to be 20 sequels or something ridiculous like that. Each Thanksgiving, a new ThanksKilling. And we wanted to open it up to a contest where fans or aspiring filmmakers could make their own ThanksKilling with a small budget. We’d just oversee the process. Who knows if that idea will ever come about though.”
The director may be done with ThanksKilling for now, but he is still hard at work revisiting the 80’s. Downey tells iHorror that he is setting his sights on a popular comedy/horror franchise that is getting a reboot.
“Right now I’m working on a fun little side project that I’m really excited about and I think horror fans are gonna love,” he says, ”It’s a short fan film based on my favorite movie of all time – Critters! We just shot it and I couldn’t be happier with how it looks so far. Keep your eyes peeled for an early 2015 release. Kill more Crites!”
ThanksKilling is a low-budget movie to be sure. For horror fans the mastery is not in how uneasy it makes its viewers by terrifying them, but in how it exposes the banality of the genre. Director Jordan Downey understands that horror fans appreciate recognition, and with ThanksKilling, he honors them by interrogating their knowledge, using inside jokes as a way to tell the audience “he gets it”. What more can you say about a movie that vaunts “There are boobs in the first second!”?
ThanksKilling and ThanksKilling 3 are available, streaming to Hulu subscribers.