The Ending of ‘Thanksgiving,’ Explained

Warning: The following article contains major spoilers for Thanksgiving.

A blood-stained slasher tale about a masked killer targeting the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts during the holiday season might sound silly on paper, but Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving is easily slicing through the competition and becoming one of the most-discussed horror flicks of 2023.

With the chaotic slasher flick officially released in theaters today, the horror-loving masses are understandably hyped and drawing much-needed attention to Roth’s latest project. Although, after briefly appearing as a parody trailer in 2007’s Grindhouse, it feels worth stating that the movie probably didn’t need much hype to begin with as it’s been heavily anticipated for over a decade now. Luckily, the spooktacular feature is finally at our disposal and is fully terrorizing us all and putting a completely different spin on the festivities.

And as devoted moviegoers and passionate horrorhounds have surely flocked to the theaters in droves to witness Roth’s fresh-faced venture and await its streaming debut, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that folks want answers to that jaw-dropping ending. So, let’s separate the cranberry sauce from the stuffing and dissect that intense conclusion.

Warning: Spoilers to follow.

What is Thanksgiving about?

Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

In its cold opening, Thanksgiving introduces viewers to modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, where a Black Friday sale is happening at a local retail store on Thanksgiving night. During the opening minutes, Jessica (Nell Verlaque) and her friends sneak into the superstore due to Jessica’s dad Thomas (Rick Hoffman) owning the establishment. As the group sneak inside and begin toying with particular items and taunting the angry crowd waiting outside to be let in, the collective mob soon ambushes the store. During the chaos, three people are killed — including Amanda (Gina Gershon), the wife of the store’s manager and Mitch, a security guard.

One year after the events, the town of Plymouth is still reeling from the horrific tragedy —  especially Jessica, who still feels remorse and guilt for sneaking her friends in that night and kickstarting the vicious riot. But while the Mayor of Plymouth and Jessica’s dad urge the town to move on, a sadistic serial killer is livestreaming his victims as pieces of their bodies are assembled on a Thanksgiving table. From there, it’s clear that the killer, who is wearing a “John Carver” mask and committing crimes dressed as a pilgrim, is out for some form of revenge.

After the movie experiences its time jump, the blood-splattered splasher immediately blends with themes of a who-dun-it mystery, with Jessica’s former boyfriend Bobby, who disappeared after the Black Friday riot and ghosted the entire group, and Jessica’s new boyfriend Ryan, who always had a crush on her, being considered as the main suspects. Throughout the movie, Jessica and her friends go back and forth on whether the masked killer is Bobby or Ryan, but both have credible alibis when discussing that night.

The ending of Thanksgiving, explained

Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

One by one, the members of the group are picked off by John Carver, including another security guard working at the store that night, as well as a member of the angry mob and Thomas’ greedy fiancée Kathleen. Once the others are dealt with, John Carver specifically sets his sights on Jessica, as the killer attempts to attack her multiple times and eventually captures Jessica, her father, and the rest of the group and takes them to a secluded location.

While there, John Carver livestreams his brutal actions and taunts until Jessica is able to free herself and escape through the woods. Stumbling upon a nearby warehouse, Jessica spots Sheriff Newlon, who has apparently been wounded by John Carver, who Jessica then believes to be Bobby. As Jessica approaches Bobby, Sheriff Newlon intercepts and insists that the John Carver killer is Bobby and runs after him, apparently shooting him in the process.

Back at the police station, Jessica breathes a sigh of relief, believing that the nightmare is finally over. However, Jessica soon notices dirt and leaves on Sheriff Newlon’s shoes that are similar to foliage found in the forest she was running through. Just then, Newlon’s personality completely shifts as he reveals that he’s the killer!

Sheriff Newlon reveals that he was having an affair with Amanda, one of the people killed during the Black Friday riot the year prior. Not only that, but Amanda was carrying Newlon’s child, with the both of them planning for Amanda to leave her husband for Newlon. Unbeknownst to Newlon, Jessica was livestreaming his entire confession, angering him beyond belief.

After his explanation, Jessica manages to briefly escape with Bobby, although Sheriff Newlon charges after them. Desperate, Jessica utilizes a Thanksgiving Parade float in the warehouse and causes an explosion, evidently killing Newlon in the process. In the aftermath of the events, officers search the scene and reveal that no actual body was found, but insist that nobody could survive an explosion like that. So while we’re not entirely sure if a sequel will happen, the stage has certainly been set for a follow-up to this fun slasher.

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