If you were to ask anyone who had worked retail before what the worst holiday to work on is, easily ninety-percent of them are going to give you the same answer: Black Friday…
…Imagine this. You’re standing under the cold, dead lights of whatever corporate trap you’ve found yourself in. Outside, customers howl, scream and claw at the doors in the darkness outside like wailing banshees. Your manager screams “places everyone” like a frightened general leading his troops into war. The clock strikes seven. The doors open. And in come pouring a horde of ravenous zombies with dollar signs in their eyes. They’re coming straight for you, and all you can think of is making it out alive so you can get home to whatever scraps are left from Thanksgiving dinner.
That's Black Friday.
I’ve worked this horrible day. Many times. And all of the above is exactly how it is. People lose their goddamned minds on this holiday. Horror has a long history of pouring out the guts of consumerism and examining them under a microscope, but director Casey Tebo’s Black Friday may be the least subtle yet on how we act during this unholiest of unholy days, and it’s all the more of a riot because of it.
Written by Andy Greskoviak, Black Friday takes place the night before the dreaded holiday. The tired employees of We Love Toys toy store have gathered for a pre-Black Friday sales special. But once the customers are let in, they discover there’s something different about these shoppers. They’re still bloodthirsty and manic as all hell…but they’ve also been taken over by an alien life-form that has them turning into ugly monstrosities to match their vile need to consume.
“Welcome to corporate hell, kid.”
Black Friday tears the stuffing out of consumerism, and it never stops having a great time while doing it.
It’s easy to have the time of your life with this cast. Devon Sawa plays Ken, the store “cool guy” who’s actually kind of a loser and dating half his age clerk Marnie (Ivana Baquero). Michael Jai White is an armed to the teeth stock associate named Archie. And freaking Bruce Campbell is the delightfully awful, lying sack of shit store manager Jonathan. Thank you, Black Friday, for giving us the gift of Campbell and Sawa in a hilarious bathroom scene together (not what you think…whatever that is). Then there’s also dorky teen Chris (Ryan Lee) and his much too serious about their job boss, Brian (Stephen Peck), among others. Each represents the type of people you may have worked with (or were) in retail at peak obnoxiousness, and every actor is relishing in their role.
Unlike most Christmas horror films—have you ever realized how dark they all are?--Black Friday is a light-hearted horror comedy that’s fun for the whole family…as long as your kids don’t mind a whole lot of gore and frustrated F-bombs. For one, Tebo’s film brings back one of my favorite sci-fi horror tropes that we just don’t see enough of these days, and that’s the alien asteroid that infects everyone around it with nasty alien juice. Black Friday has all of the charm of campy 80s sci-fi horror flicks, overflowing with all of the slimy, sticky, slurpy effects you can handle. Many of which are practical, by the way. That includes full-on person in rubber monster suit mayhem, the best kind of monstrous carnage. Even the opening credits blend a festive helping of Christmas cheer and dripping goo. The slimier the titles, the more fun you’re likely to have.
Like the employees that work there, Black Friday is quirky and weird to an extreme level, so much so that anyone looking for scary, suspenseful horror won’t find it here. Black Friday doesn’t know the meaning of the words. This movie is the discount savings version of already cheap frights, but that’s a head’s up more than it is a criticism. Tebo’s film doesn’t seem all that worried about scaring you, as long its ridiculous antics are putting a smile on your face. The jokes don’t always land—many are at best a dad joke worthy of a soft heh—but you have to appreciate the attempt. To be clear though, the creatures and their sticky hand tongues—you’ll see—are the things nightmares are made of. They’re just a whole lot of fun to watch, too.
The best and worst part of Black Friday is its wild energy. From the moment our characters arrive at We Love Toys to the final minutes of the epic finale, Tebo’s film is off the rails and screaming. I constantly found myself uttering, “well that escalated quickly”. Black Friday aims to appeal to the attention challenged, hesitant to lull for longer than a minute or two before slipping right back into confusing chaos. This isn’t a movie with much meat on the turkey leg, and it’s easy to get lost, lose track of characters, or grow exhausted amidst the madness. In that sense, watching it really is like finding yourself in a sea of people at the mall on Black Friday, smells of gourmet popcorn and rancid B.O. filling your nostrils.
Put simply, Black Friday, like some poor retail employee forcing their lips to stretch into a smile as they’re berated by a parent screaming about the latest doll that pees itself being out of stock, is trying too hard at times. But in that, there’s a passion to create entertaining holiday horror that’s impossible not to appreciate.
Black Friday is your average mashed potatoes and gravy horror movie. It’s that part of the meal that never fills you up, but keeps you going back for seconds because it just tastes so damn good. It rarely fires on all cylinders and is much too frantic for its own good at times, but it’s still a joyful, bloody creature feature guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit, whether it has to drag you there or not.
Don’t be a last-minute shopper with Black Friday. Put this one in your cart and enjoy the sweet, mindless gratification of watching horrible shoppers get what’s coming to them.
Consume. Obey. Watch.
Black Friday is now on VOD from Screen Media.
By Matt Konopka