PILGRIM

Holiday slasher films are basically as old as the genre itself. Black Christmas was one of the first slashers ever, which inspired films like New Year’s EvilMy Bloody ValentineApril Fool’s DaySilent Night, Deadly Night, and the granddaddy of them all, John Carpenter’s Halloween. There are loads of them, but hey, holidays and horror almost go hand in hand. Holidays are all about celebration and happiness, so turning it on its head with blood and guts can make for a deviously good time. 
 
It’s Thanksgiving at the Baker’s house, and in order to have a more authentic holiday, mother Anna (Courtney Henggeler) invites Pilgrim reenactors Ethan (Peter Giles) and Patience (Elyse Levesque) to recreate the first Thanksgiving. Ethan and Patience take their gig a little too seriously, though, and begin a holiday weekend of torturing and terrorizing the Baker family, to show them the true meaning of the holiday. 
 
As you saw above, almost every holiday has been turned into a slasher film (still waiting for the Arbor Day movie with a murderous environmentalist), but we’ve never really gotten a Thanksgiving edition. Eli Roth said the reason he made that classic Thanksgiving trailer for Grindhouse because there had never been a Thanksgiving themed slasher. So, we got a trailer, and no, Thankskilling doesn’t count, as it doesn’t take itself seriously like those others. So, we finally have one with Pilgrim, an episode of Hulu’s Into the Dark holiday themed anthology horror series, produced by Jason Blum, who specializes in giving small budgets to filmmakers, so they can have complete creative control. I find him to be a very admirable, and obviously business savvy, producer. He follows that model here and since it’s an anthology TV series, the budgets and time to make these films are probably far more restricted. 
 
A low budget doesn’t automatically mean it’s a low-quality film. There are plenty of terrible $200 million films and some incredible low budget films. What matters is the talent, and it’s been a long while since I’ve seen something so bereft of talent in every department. This film literally made my eyes hurt. It looks like it was shot on a Canon handicam, with no regard given to any sort of blocking or lighting. Do you love overexposed photography? Well, you get plenty of it here. Characters will be in the house, where it at least looks somewhat normal, and then they go open the front door for someone, the outside light just bursting in. Characters will projectile vomit blood, cupping their hands around their mouths to clearly conceal the hose behind them. Need to show a dead character? Throw a little blood on their face and call it a day. It’s like the filmmakers regressed back to their film school days. 
 
This was directed by Marcus Dunstan, who co-wrote the screenplay with his writing partner Patrick Melton and Noah Feinberg. Dunstan and Melton are famous as the screenwriters for the Feast films and Saw IV-VII. The thing is, I actually like those movies! Yes, linked there is my dissertation about how much I love the Saw movies. Those were certainly low-budget and felt cheap, but it was part of their charm and aesthetic. They also knew what kind of movies they were, but they clearly had no idea what kind of movie this was. This is one of those slow-paced horror films that concludes with an over the top climax in the third act, but when there’s absolutely no suspense of atmosphere during the build-up, it’s just tedious. There’s nothing scary about a Pilgrim randomly building a shack in your backyard. It’s just silly and weird. The opening credits try to have some foreboding atmosphere with old drawings of the Pilgrim’s arriving on the Mayflower and there’s one mildly disturbing visual with Patience churning blood, but that’s really all the horror you get. The climax is campy in the worst ways, and is at odds with the rest of the film. Some of the shots and lines of dialogue are so bizarre with their editing, timing, and delivery, where I felt like I was watching the Jack Frost movies. 
 
Stupid characters are par for course in horror movies, but the characters here may as well have been braindead. I can kind of understand inviting some Pilgrim reenactors to have a more “authentic” Thanksgiving, but when you can tell they’re clearly creepy psychopaths right off the bat, you’re just immediately annoyed with the characters. There’s one scene where the main character Cody (Reign Edwards) walks in on Ethan lying in bed with her adolescent brother Tate (Antonio Raul Corbo), which should cause anybody to immediately call the police and run as far away as possible. The atrocious acting makes them seem even more stupid, with the awful line delivery of awful dialogue making everybody just comes off constantly confused. Peter Giles as Ethan tried to camp it up, but all he’s able to do is speak in those low, droning voice. The only actor who’s even worth faint praise is Elyse Levesque as Patience. Like Giles, she gets nothing to do, but she at least plays a decently creepy Puritanical woman and is the lone bright spot here. Everyone else just sucks and the only attempt to tell any semblance of a story or develop any characters is with some backstory with Cody’s mother leaving her and her dad on Thanksgiving Day. Is it resolved in any satisfying way? Of course not! 
 
If you’re going to make a holiday themed horror movie, then you have to play around with all of the holiday traditions. I will give them credit for incorporating old and modern Thanksgiving elements, even if none of it was scary, or interesting. The film tries to have some social commentary on how families are so disconnected from each other and actually don’t enjoy each other’s company, but it lacks any sort of substance and is mostly just confusing. I’m not sure how putting people in stocks and branding them is supposed to show them the real reason for Thanksgiving, but these are crazy Puritans after all. The stupidest part is one family member is so obsessed with the money he has invested in the stock market, that he’s constantly looking at his phone. There’s literally a scene at night with him scrolling through the stocks, which doesn’t make sense, because if trading’s closed, what’s the point of constantly checking? If you’re going to make a social commentary, at least make it make sense. What’s another aspect of the holidays? Why, family, of course! If only I knew who everybody was and their relationships with each other, because I felt like I had zero context to anything. 
 
It can hardly be classified as a movie, but Pilgrim is absolutely one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. The end credits feature some behind the scenes B-roll, with shots of the actors as their names come up. The thing is, nobody looks like they’re having any fun. The smiles are fake, or simply not there. They all look miserable, like they knew they were in a piece of trash and were just thankful to get a check. I haven’t seen any of the other Into the Dark installments, but I’ve seen people claim that Pilgrim is actually one of the better ones, going as far to even call it “good”. Seriously, horror film fans have the lowest bar when it comes to quality, and if this is considered one of the “better” ones, I’m going to avoid anything else in this series at all costs. Congratulations, Pilgrim, you’ve been awarded the lowest rating on my site yet. Happy Thanksgiving! 
 
Not. 
 
0.5/10 

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