GORE IN THE STORE

REVIEW INDEX

BLACK FRIDAY ****

Directed by Casey Tebo.
Starring Devon Sawa, Bruce Campbell, Michael Jai White, Ivana Baquero, Ryan Lee, Stephen Peck.
Horror/Comedy, 85 mins, cert 15.

 

Released in the UK on Digital Platforms via Signature Entertainment on 11th February 2022.

 

Given that every year for the past decade or so the media likes to fill out heads with images of shoppers going mad on Black Friday with the promises of high-end goods at discount prices, you would have thought that somebody would have made a horror movie about it before now. Granted, George A. Romero pretty much defined the idea of a zombified shopper slavishly revisiting in death the temple of consumerism that is the shopping mall with DAWN OF THE DEAD, but that was back in 1978 and the 2004 remake did little – if anything – to tap into that particular analogy.

 

And so that brings us to BLACK FRIDAY, a horror-comedy that pits a ragtag group of toy shop workers against a marauding barrage of shoppers desperate to get into their shop on Thanksgiving night. Unfortunately, these shoppers aren’t just looking to get their hands on the bargains as some of them have been infected by a mysterious alien spore that turns people into toothy monsters who spread their infection and create new monsters in order to create a giant super-being, and it is up to the surviving shop assistants to try and stop it.

 

And that core group of shop assistants consist of a checklist of types, including wannabe hero and single dad Ken (Devon Sawa – FINAL DESTINATION), his potential love interest Marnie (Ivana Baquerotough – PAN’S LABYRINTH), tough guy Archie (Michael Jai White – BLACK DYNAMITE), wimpy germaphobe Chris (Ryan Lee – SUPER 8), slimy assistant manager Brian (Stephen Peck – THE NIGHT IS YOUNG) and manager Jonathan (Bruce Campbell – THE EVIL DEAD), who may or may not be channelling Basil Fawlty with his performance and his overall look. As is customary with these siege-type movies, everybody has their chance to shine and everybody has their moment of reflection, where we get to really see their character flaws and what the extreme situation will bring out of them, and BLACK FRIDAY has those moments so you can feel sorry for Ken as he hasn’t gotten to see his kids, or Chris hasn’t been accepted by his stern father, or Jonathan doesn’t really want to smile and love toys like his corporate bosses insist all members of staff do. This is where you also get the metaphors and social commentaries and as far as the writing goes there are few surprises and things play out more or less as you would expect, although most of the best laughs and emotional moments come courtesy of the delivery rather than the lines themselves.

 

However, where BLACK FRIDAY scores highly is with its special effects as the movie strives to return us to the good old days of gooey practicals and rubber monsters. To be honest, it achieves about 90% of that as the low budget doesn’t really allow for the giant kaiju that the creatures create so that was achieved with an enhanced optical effect, but it could have been worse. Apart from that we get strange coloured goo, spraying blood and ribbon worm-esque proboscis shooting all over the place as the shoppers go wild and the staff get active with anything they can find to use as weapons, so if the monstrous silliness of SLITHER or NIGHT OF THE CREEPS is your kind of horror – and why wouldn’t it be, as we all like to have fun – then BLACK FRIDAY hits those same crazy highs, albeit with the slight restraints that come with a smaller budget, but they are only slight.

 

So overall, BLACK FRIDAY is a dumb, messy, neon pink horror comedy throwback to the 1980s that many movies try to achieve but few rarely get right. Yes, having Bruce Campbell in the cast does help and he does get the best lines and knows exactly how to deliver them, but the rest of the cast all do an admirable job, with Devon Sawa proving to be charismatic in a low-rent Mel Gibson kind-of way, although the only one of the main cast who doesn’t get that much to do is Michael Jai White but the fact he is in there to start with is a plus. The script is serviceable and the direction competent but it is the actors that make it work, and when combined with the excellent visuals and energetic pacing BLACK FRIDAY’s positives vastly outweigh its negatives. Basically, it’s a hoot!

 

Chris Ward.

 

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