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Thankskilling 3 (2012)

Give Thanks for Necessary Evils

If Andy Warhol were alive today, he would make Thankskilling 3 and then blow his brains out. The sequel to Jordan Downey's ultra-low-budget, ultra-unwatchable slasher movie pushes the boundaries of art and entertainment so boldly that I'm conflicted as to whether this is the worst movie of the last half-decade, or one of 2012's very best.

I attended an advance screening nearly a week ago, so plot specifics are a bit fuzzy. In fairness, I was hard-pressed even in the moment to understand what was happening on screen or why--so time may have little to do with my confusion. I do know that the first movie's villain--an anthropomorphic, wisecracking killer turkey named Turkie (voiced by Downey)--is on a mission to preserve the last copies of Thankskilling 2, a movie so terrible that aliens have landed on Earth to incinerate mountains of its DVDs.

(In case you're wondering, Thankskilling 2 exists exclusively as a plot device in Thankskilling 3, the only film to skip its own sequel.*)

Turkie will stop at nothing, including murdering his own wife and child and then willing his son's spirit into a Thankskilling 2 DVD case. At odds with the gruesome gobbler is Yomi, a yellow puppet from another dimension who believes that defeating Turkie will compel her talking, pixie-like brain to return. She enlists the help of Uncle Donny (Daniel Usaj), a TV spokesman and amateur amusement park entrepreneur. Donny and his brother (?) Jefferson (Joe Hartzler) dream of opening Thanksgivingland, but are too busy fending off insults from their ancient, hip-hop-loving grandmother to get anything off the ground. Also key to the plot somehow are a space worm and his killer-cyborg boyfriend, who shoots interdimensional portals out of his anus.

That covers about half the film, and I'm pretty sure I've made it more coherent for you. Thankskilling 3 qualifies as a movie only by virtue of its ability to be shown on a screen. Downey and co-writers Mike Will Downey and Kevin Stewart shift gears with their narrative and production quality so frequently that it's impossible to get a foothold. You can literally see the glue holding the space worm's googly eyes in place, but his hulking, metal companion's costume looks like it cost twice the entire budget. In this universe, we must reconcile quarter-effort voice acting and multiple five-minute pockets of nothingness that seem to meander for hours with camerawork, special effects, and production design that occasionally look like the fruits of serious filmmakers.

Perhaps the best way to describe this thing is as a cross between the short-lived TV series Wondershowzen and Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void. Downey and company use the aesthetics of innocence to tell a dark story that gets more vulgar and nonsensical by the moment, relying on captivating psychedelics to lull the audience into just the right state to accept the less-than-successful stretches. I found composer Zain Effendi's two instrumental interludes to be so hypnotic that I'm convinced there were actual sedatives in the beats--maybe some hallucinogens, too, because I still can't believe the 8-bit-Nintendo-style animated turkey fight at the center of the climax.

In retrospect, I'm glad the original Thankskilling was enough of a hit to warrant a sequel. Sure, everyone I know who's seen Part One says it's one of the worst movie watching experiences of their lives. But I'd like to believe that was the point: Downey spent as little money and effort as possible to put out a movie that the Internet wouldn't be able to resist. Using the ensuing mountains of cash, he unleashed his creativity and commitment in making a confounding trash masterpiece that's sure to piss off ninety-nine percent of its audience--but for the right reasons this time.

Just as it kills some people to concede that Warhol's soup-can paintings qualify as art, I'm at once embarrassed and delighted to proclaim Thankskilling 3 a good and possibly important movie. It's at times funny and deadly un-funny, intellectually challenging and horribly base; even when the plot gets dull, the film remains alive. I can't recommend this movie to anyone--which is why you need to see it as soon as possible.

*This was almost not the case. Legend has it that Chevy Chase proposed a follow-up to his wildly successful 1985 comedy Fletch, called "Fletch 3". The studio balked and went with "Fletch Lives" instead.