Dean Marney – The Turkey That Ate My Father (1995)

Review by Justin Tate

This Thanksgiving the turkey bites back! In the same universe as  The Jack-O’-Lantern That Ate My Brother, Elizabeth is once again faced with a holiday foe. She doesn’t remember her prior supernatural adventures, but something tells her these strange events are linked to a mysterious man named Ralph.

It all starts with a bizarre advertisement for a giant paper turkey. The cost is free and the delivery is free. Just call this number and speak to Ralph. Of course the kids place an order! What could go wrong?

The turkey arrives at their door and before you can say ‘gobble gobble,’ it grows to an unimaginable size. Elizabeth’s father is consumed and she must navigate a complex maze that may or may not be taking place inside the miles-wide paper turkey.

If that all sounds pretty wild, it definitely is. Even for obscure ’90s middle-grade horror, there are some majorly bonkers stuff happening. Some visuals are like, actually chilling. I can’t get the image out of my head of a sea of paper turkey feathers collapsing onto themselves, with children running for their lives to escape death by a thousand paper cuts. There’s also a monster masquerading as the dad which is totally spooky. And maybe a connection to Greek mythology? It’s implied at least.

Elizabeth’s attitude is once again on full display. Though she’s clearly supposed to be an unreliable narrator, she paints a convincing picture of an unfair life. She must combat her family’s favoritism toward her brother and teachers who just don’t understand. Like prior adventures, she does eventually learn an important lesson. This one wraps up with a surprise understanding of thankfulness that is actually sweet.

It seems Marney’s holiday spine-tinglers endure mostly as the vague memories of thirty-somethings. Given the level of bizarro, remembering plot specifics would be tough. Like how Elizabeth forgets why she should fear Ralph, however, I imagine today’s fathers might glance at his children’s paper turkey with a sense of dread. Why should he fear such an innocent turkey? Is he crazy?

No, not crazy…just the vague, subconscious memory of the wild adventures he had reading this book back in ’95. Maybe it’s time to revisit the old nightmares? Or make them a holiday tradition?

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