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Comedy horror fans will buy what ‘Black Friday’ is selling

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For many people, just the term “Black Friday” is enough to give them the shivers. Whether they’re put-upon retail workers thrust into the breach or the exhausted shoppers single-mindedly devoted to doorbusters and deals, hearing those words together makes them break out into a cold sweat.

Now imagine that, only with alien zombie monsters.

That’s the gist of “Black Friday,” a new horror comedy written by Andy Grekoviak and directed by Casey Tebo. It’s the story of a motley crew of retail workers at a big-box toy store who must face down a mysterious alien menace that transforms all who come into contact with it into monstrous zombie-like creatures. With little to defend themselves but their own wits (such as they are), the group is forced to confront these monsters while also dealing with their own dysfunctional dynamic.

Gleefully gross with over-the-top practical effects, the film is a goofy, blood-spattered romp through a world where not even the approaching end of the world is enough to shift priorities away from the accumulation of profit. Well, not immediately anyway.

Ken (Devon Sawa) has been working at a big-box toy retailer called We Love Toys for the past decade. He’s divorced with two daughters, who he loves deeply (and who love him back). However, he’s also dealing with more than a little arrested development. He’s not thrilled about working on Black Friday, but he’s ready for the holiday bonus he and the rest of the staff have been promised.

Ken’s best pals at work include young germophobe Chris (Ryan Lee) and mysterious tough guy Archie (Michael Jai White); he’s also got a little bit of a thing going on with cashier Marnie (Ivana Baquero). Ken’s combination of apathy and confrontational attitude doesn’t sit too well with assistant manager Brian (Stephen Peck), who is the unquestioning lackey of store manager and corporate stooge Jonathan (Bruce Campbell).

It’s supposed to be the biggest sales day of the year, but within minutes of opening the doors, it becomes clear that something is very wrong.

As it turns out, strange meteors have been dropping from the sky, turning anyone who comes into contact with them into bloodthirsty monsters. And anyone who contacts those monsters will in turn become a monster and so on and so forth.

Suddenly, We Love Toys is under siege, filled with shoppers-turned-monsters that seek to kill and convert anyone they come into contact with, all while engaging in some sort of strange activity that seems to revolve around the meteors that started it all.

And so, Ken and the rest of the We Love Toys team have no choice but to try and find a way out and save themselves. They sneak through the store, doing battle with various incarnations of the alien menace and trying to figure out a plan of attack. As the pressures and dangers mount, other feelings begin bubbling up, old resentments and disappointments that are finally being aired, much to the chagrin of all involved.

Ken is a screw-up. He’s always been a screw-up. But this is something he can’t afford to screw up, not with so many people – his co-workers, his daughters, humanity – counting on him.

“Black Friday” is a throwback in the best way, the kind of horror movie that you might have found while prowling the less-traveled aisles of your local video store once upon a time. That lo-fi aesthetic permeates the entire production, combining ridiculously over-the-top practical effects with exquisitely cheeseball CGI – all of it in service to giving the audience a gory good time. It is short and sweet, coming in at well under 90 minutes, yet it manages to find time for everything without feeling rushed.

Sure, this movie has an underlying anti-consumerist message as it largely condemns the very concept of Black Friday, but rest assured, this ain’t George Romero – the filmmakers are far more interested in simply making something hilarious and gross and hilariously gross. The social commentary, such as it is, is secondary to the B-movie chaos … and I for one am glad.

“Black Friday” is one of those movies that demands a bit of flexibility with regard to labels like “good” and “bad.” For stuff like this, you have to have some perspective on the criteria for criticism. Within the confines of what it is trying to do, this film is extremely successful, leaning into its constraints to produce a quality example of what it is trying to be.

You don’t necessarily expect performances to be a highlight in this kind of movie, but the ensemble is actually sneaky good here. Sawa delivers solid work here, embracing the absurdity in an honest way. White plays it absolutely straight and it works wonderfully. Lee goes wide-eyed and twitchy in the manner of nervous horror protagonists everywhere. Baquero is charming, though she gets relatively little to do. Peck is low-key hilarious as the officious assistant manager. And of course, the man himself, Bruce Campbell, doing his thing in a movie that is extremely Campbellian – hail to the king, baby.

“Black Friday” is a reminder that you don’t always need massive budgets and movie stars to entertain. This is a movie whose low-tech charms largely overcome its limitations. It is funny (in a gross way) and gross (in a fun way) – a quick and breezy romp that could be ideal viewing before you head out in search of bargains on that darkest of retail days.

[3.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 22 November 2021 10:07

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