Black Friday, every retail worker’s nightmare. We’ve all seen the memes comparing the mall zombies from Dawn of the Dead to shoppers pressed up against the doors, waiting for their chance to maim each other over a cheap TV set. And now, thanks to director Casey Tebo (Happy Birthday) and writer Andy Greskoviak, that meme has come full circle and inspired its own movie. Is it one worth lining up to get, or something to grab from the post-Christmas clearance rack?
It’s Black Friday, which as you probably know, has managed to creep up and possess Thanksgiving as well. This leaves Ken (Devon Sawa, Final Destination, Death Rider in the House of Vampires) dropping his reluctant kids off at their grandparents as he heads in for his shift at We Love Toys. But at least he gets to work with his much younger girlfriend Marnie (Ivana Baquero, Pan’s Labyrinth, Rottweiler).
But this year store manager Jonathan (Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead, Burn Notice) and his assistant Brian (Stephen Peck, The Night is Young) won’t be the worst thing he has to face. Because bargain fever isn’t the only thing that the customers are infected with and a shiny new PlayStation 5 is the last thing on what’s left of their minds.
Opening with an atmosphere pre-credits scene Black Friday swiftly shifts to black comedy as we get a hysterical, and all too accurate, portrait of corporate stooge managers, ass kissing assistant managers and asshole customers that anyone who has ever worked retail will recognize. It’s one that’s horrible enough on its own, the creatures are just an early present from Satan Claus.
Which means that when the shit hits the fan courtesy of a Day of the Triffids style meteor shower, Black Friday has a layer of believability that lends a bit of weight to its horrific side as the characters act in ways we would expect. It also lets it take shots at everything from corporate culture and consumerism to workplace affairs and movies themselves. If my last review Black Holler was a lesson in how not to make a horror comedy, Black Friday is a great example of one done right.
The script is supported by a great cast, Bruce Campbell looks like John Cleese and plays against type as the cowardly manager who only cares about his sales numbers. And Devon Sawa adds a layer of humanity to the proceedings as the divorced father whose concern is his kids. In supporting roles relative newcomer Stephen Peck nearly steals the film as the full of himself assistant manager, Brian. Michael Jai White (Rogue Hostage, Assault on VA-33) is a treat as hardware salesman turned monster killer Archie. And Ryan Lee (Goosebumps, Super 8) is comic relief as the germophobic Chris.
Black Friday also boasts some impressive effects and makeup work in part thanks to veteran effects and makeup artist Robert Kurtzman whose career stretches back to 1986 and Night of the Creeps with films like Phantasm II, Thir13en Ghosts and John Dies at the End in between. In their early stages, the infected shoppers look like the radiation zombies from Nightmare City before becoming positively demonic looking. There’s also a wicked looking end creature that turns up in time for an Aliens inspired finale.
Tebo and Greskoviak have delivered a delightfully bloody treat and a great addition to the seasonal horror genre in Black Friday. Screen Media will release Black Friday in select theatres on November 19th and On Demand on November 23rd. You can check Screen Media’s website for a list of theatres, it’s one you want to see on a big screen if possible.