Black Friday – Review
A group of toy store employees must protect each other from a horde of parasite infected shoppers.
Thanksgiving dinner is done. Everyone is vegged out on the couch watching football and there is one thing on people’s minds. Black Friday sales, amirite!? To be honest, I don’t know if anyone even really cares about black Friday anymore? Retailers, at least in the UK, seem to have cottoned on to the mad rush. Attempting to trick would be bargain hunters. They jack prices up in October only to drop them back to their original price for Black Friday. It’s barely worth the sullied reputation you will earn from waiting in line. Still, Black Friday is a thing I suppose, so there has to be a horror movie about it, right?
Written by Andy Greskoviak and directed by Casey Tebo. Black Friday is a comedy horror movie that is being absolutely panned by viewers. Released in November of 2021, Bruce Campbell has both production and acting credits. It must at least be worth a watch, surely? Well, we are going to take a look and see whether it deserves the hammering it is getting. As always, I will give a quick spoiler free breakdown of the movie which you can skip if you like.
Fall Themed Horror Month
November has been Fall Themed Horror month. We have been reviewing a few movies every week that feature an autumn setting. We have taken a look at movies like The Village, ParaNorman, Super Dark Times, and Pyewacket. If nothing else, it has been fun. We are coming to the end of it now with only a couple of reviews to go. Next week we are heading into December and Awful Advent.
Our Awful Advent 25 days of Christmas Horror feature is going to be big. Much like our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Horror feature, we will be reviewing a movie a day. For 25 days we will be looking at Christmas themed horror movies. These will either be set at Christmas or focusing on the holiday itself. It’s going to be fun! I know a lot of you can already predict some of the movies in the list. Keep checking back for that starting on the first of December.
Black Friday – Synopsis
It’s thanksgiving and the employees of We Love Toys have been called in to open for Black Friday. Ken Bates, played by Devon Sawa, drops of his kids at his ex wife’s house. Telling them he needs to work as all heroes work on holidays, he heads off to work. On his way he picks up Chris, played by Ryan Lee. Chris is a young man who lives at home with his parents and is a serious germaphobe. The pair arrive at the store where the rest of the employees are setting up for opening.
A crowd is waiting outside of the store. The employees gather and are given a pep talk by store manager Jonathan, played by Bruce Campbell. Floor manager Brian, played by Stephen Peck, opens the doors and the customers pour in. New worker Emmet, played by Louie Kurtzman has been instructed to stick with Ken to learn the ropes. Eager to do well, Ken shoots him down by telling him to take the easiest way out of every situation.
Believing something is wrong. Sales assistant clerk Marnie, played by Ivana Baquero, stares at the queueing customers. Meanwhile Chris is struggling to serve an old lady. There appears to be a sticky substance on his till and Chris, being a germaphobe, doesn’t want to touch it. Brian scolds Chris and sends him to clean up a puddle of vomit. Chris, disgusted at the thought, heads over to where the sick man is standing. The man hides behind a large box. His face is welted and he appears to be covered in open wounds. Without warning, he charges at Chris. Chris reacts by pushing a container of balls on top of him. It quickly becomes clear that the shoppers are hungry for more than just bargains.
Thanksgiving Comedy Horror
Black Friday is a comedy horror in the vein of Shaun of the Dead and other similar movies. Featuring a pretty decent cast. The film aims to mix big laughs with some entertaining horror elements. Set around the holiday. Black Friday makes an obvious statement about zombie like bargain hunters. The movie feels about 6 or 7 years out of date. Far more people see the Black Friday sales for what they are nowadays. It feels as though this film would have been a lot more apt half a decade ago. You know, back when people were actually killing each other to get to the bargains.
Still, the concept here could make for a fairly compelling horror movie. A store that opens at night full of people who have lost their minds. A ragtag group of employees that have to navigate their differences. All while fighting a horrifying threat and trying to stay alive. A decent sized location full of places to hide. There is plenty of meat on this turkey leg. The problem is, however, Black Friday just doesn’t do any of it particularly well.
Feeling like a mix between 28 Days Later, The Blob and an average TV sitcom. This is a movie that attempts to throw a ton of shit at the wall to see what sticks. The result is a whole mess of genre tropes and missed opportunities. Still, it is fairly entertaining. You really have to go in to it with low expectations, though. Not a exactly a ringing endorsement but it is what it is. There is a time and a place for movies like this. During the holiday season when you are with family or friends, you might really enjoy it.
Bargain Hunting Zombies
Black Friday could be best described as a zombie movie. As mentioned above. This is something of a commentary on the relentless nature of bargain hunters. We have all watched the news. Everyone has witnessed the scenes. Groups of people wrapped up in multiple layers. Credit cards at the ready. Eagerly waiting outside the doors of American department stores on Black Friday. These scenes are easily comparable to those of the zombies in Dawn of the Dead. It is something of a surprise that it has taken this long. How has nobody else put the pieces together and made a horror movie about it before now?
As with most zombie horror movies, the big question is what type of zombies are we up against. Well, as you can probably guess, they are the super fast rage style zombies. It feels as though 28 Days Later has changed the zombie movie genre forever. I doubt we will ever see slow, meandering zombies ever again. That’s probably a good thing but I am a bit sick of the super aggressive, ultra fast version. It’s been done to death and Black Friday does very little different with the formula.
It does try to mix things up a little, however. These aren’t simply your average, everyday zombies. Actually, they technically aren’t zombies at all. They are humans seemingly infected by a parasite or something of the like. They have an ultimate goal and that goal leads to a significant switch in the plot. The usual tropes are all here, though. The movie really doesn’t do anything at all new. The infected bite people. Those people turn into zombies. They, in tun, go on to bite more people etc etc. One small change is that they can spit some weird type of projectile. This projectile can, apparently, also infect people. It’s nothing new and absolutely nothing to get excited about.
A Little Bit of Christmas Spirit
Set at thanksgiving, Black Friday feels as though it is trying to fit into a few holiday niches. There is a strong Christmas vibe here with decorations and Christmas music playing. It is actually fairly festive. A fair guess would be that it is attempting to tap into the Christmas Horror genre for extra exposure. I imagine the makers would love for this to end up as an annual tradition for horror fans. I can’t see that happening, however. Still, as a festive holiday horror you could do quite a lot worse.
The fact that the movie never takes itself too seriously makes it somewhat of an easy watch. It doesn’t really demand too much of the viewer. You can throw it on, turn off your brain and just enjoy. What more do you need from a festive horror movie? I, personally, didn’t feel as though I wasted my time with it. It’s not a fantastic movie but it is absolutely fine for something to watch during the holidays. If you are the type of person who hates movies set around this time of year, however. You will likely want to give this a miss. It is absolutely not the type of horror that can stand up outside of its holiday setting.
A Great B-Movie Cast
Black Friday features a pretty stellar cast… Well, as far as B-Movies go. Many of the actors here have been big names at one point or another. I was quite surprised to see a few of the faces. Naturally Bruce Campbell, as cranky store manager Jonathan, gets top building. He is excellent, as always, and plays the role well. Overly concerned with profit, Jonathan is exactly what you would expect. Cowardly, demanding, and self centred.
Final Destination’s Devon Sawa has a pretty big part as Ken. Having worked at the store for years. Ken has perfected avoiding doing anything too taxing and thinks himself to be a bit of a “cool” guy. Sawa reminds me of a bit of a discount Michael Keaton here. Ken is, frankly, a bit sad and Sawa does a nice job of capturing how oblivious Ken is to this fact.
Ivana Baquero, of Pan’s Labyrinth fame, is all grown up and playing Marnie. Marnie is a wise cracking shop assistant. Lacking direction in life. Marnie is pretty capable of defending herself and not afraid to bust her co-worker’s balls. She is definitely a character plenty of ladies can relate to and Baquero does a good job. Michael Jai White appears as tough guy employee Archie. Think his turn as Spawn but with a nail gun. It’s great to see him, however brief. The rest of the cast are all competent with Ryan Lee, as Chris, being of particular note. He delivers quite a few laughs. His portrayal of a germaphobe dealing with various bodily substances is always amusing. All in all, the cast is probably the best part of the movie. They thoroughly buy into the plot and genuinely give it their all.
Too Many Issues
Black Friday falls foul to far too many issues to make it a must watch. The script, for one, is absolutely terrible. Conversations can feel dull and uninteresting. Often awkward and disconnected, it seriously lacks in wit. Most of the time, however, it is just very basic and uninspired. The actors give it their all with the material given but it is just a bit too much to overcome.
The poor script is particularly noteworthy as this is a comedy. The complete lack of jokes is an enormous negative. There are a few moments that will make you chuckle but that is about it. Expect to go huge lengths of time without a single joke or reason to laugh. Bruce Campbell’s delivery will get you on a few occasions. Ryan Lee’s facial expressions also deserve mention. Outside of this, however, it is seriously lacking in humour.
A Lot to be Desired
There is a certain feeling of lethargy to the onscreen action. Nothing much happens and the impressive location is wasted. The mutated humans race around the store maniacally. Yet, outside of a few scenes, the survivors ignore them and stay well away. I know that might be the logical thing to do but it makes for poor horror. Action scenes are incredibly limited. Opportunities to offer up some horror thrills evaporate. Characters quickly deal with threats and sanctuary never seems far away. There just isn’t much threat here. It all feels a bit lazy.
The aforementioned lack of humour is only compounded by the fact that this is not a scary horror. If you are making a comedy horror, you need one of those elements to take precedence. A few jokes and a decent amount of scares is good. A few scares and tons of jokes is even better. What you can’t do, however, is to have virtually no jokes and absolutely no scares at all. Black Friday’s horror elements are poorly executed, formulaic, and entirely predictable. It doesn’t even manage to get the viewer with jump scares. You will see what is coming next from a mile away. This would be okay if the movie was funny. The fact is that it just isn’t so what you are left with is mediocre comedy and non-existent horror.
This is a weird thing to complain about but it struck me straight away. Black Friday’s music is terrible. Apparently music production was handled by Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy fame. Stump is an incredibly underrated singer and Fall Out Boy had a few catchy tracks 15 years ago. Sugar We’re Going Down is an essential drunken track to sing along to in our house. What Stump is not, however, is a decent horror movie music producer. The music in this film absolutely sucks. It feels wildly out of place, super cheesy and actually disrupts the flow in parts. I found it really distracting.
Imagine a 15 year old edgy kid declaring how his Christmas film would have a punk soundtrack. How many F-bombs would that little bastard put in those songs? That’s Black Friday. It’s bad enough seeing the 44 year old Sawa skating around the store like a 15 year old. Do we deserve to be subjected to shit like Bankrupt’s “Christmas is Cancelled Forever”? I don’t think anyone deserves to suffer that level of cringe. At least they likely didn’t pay much to license the tracks.
Bland Cinematography and Awful Special Effects
Cinematography and direction are pretty average. It’s about as basic as you can imagine for a fairly high budget horror movie. I can’t remember a single standout shot. It’s just a bland looking movie. CGI Special effects are absolute shit for the most part. There are scenes toward the end that look absolutely awful. I understand that somethings are on a scale where practical stuff would be difficult. Why include them, though? Write something different. If all you can offer are CG effects that suck ass, why bother?
It does have to be said, however, that the practical effects are excellent. The mutated humans looks really good. The designs are nothing out of the ordinary but they certainly look convincing. There’s evidently been a lot of thought gone into the monsters. I imagine there was also a fair bit of time in a makeup chair for the performers. It’s a shame that the latter parts of the movie forego the practical stuff for CGI. It’s one of the highlights of the movie and deserves a lot of praise.
Still Worth a Watch
Despite my complaints, I still think Black Friday is worth a watch. Many viewers absolutely hate this movie. Reading user reviews, it’s as if Casey Tebo spat on their children or something. I can understand people disliking it. It is not a very good movie. There are some positives to take away, however, and it can be relatively enjoyable.
As mentioned above, don’t go into it expecting something amazing. This is a mindless comedy horror that will give you a few laughs and little more. If you know what you are getting, it can be fun. There aren’t a huge number of horror movies set around thanksgiving. There are even fewer set during Black Friday. Let’s not forget that we also have some Christmas vibes here. All of this means it may be a good option for holiday viewing.
It’s easy to focus on the terrible script. The forgettable plot is obviously noteworthy. Naturally the lack of laughs stands out and the special effects suck. If you can push that aside for a little while, however, you actually may enjoy it. Grab a few friends, a few drinks and watch it as part of a holiday season B-Movie marathon. You may just find another holiday horror staple. Bruce Campbell deserves it for all the years of horror laughs, right? The chin demands it, in fact! Don’t expect it to stay with you, however.
Is it a Knockout?
Black Friday is a horror comedy set during the holiday season. Taking place on thanksgiving, the movie focuses on a horde of Black Friday shoppers infected with a parasite that turns them into brainless zombies. Featuring a decent cast including the excellent Bruce Campbell, the movie has a distinctly Christmassy feel and is very fitting for the holidays. Occasional laughs, a short runtime, and the invested character performances all make this an easy watch.
Distinctly lacking in scares and very short on jokes. The soundtrack is awful, the script very poor, and there is a notable lack of action. The film never lives up to the promise of its interesting location and never reaches the potential offered by the great cast. Still a watchable B-Movie, go into it expecting it be a bit crap and you might be surprised. Better still, watch it with friends or your partner, have a laugh and don't take it too seriously. Black Friday is pretty fitting for the holiday season.