Written by: Matt Patti | November 18th, 2021
Black Friday (Casey Tebo, 2021) 2 out of 4 stars.
It’s Thanksgiving and people are leaving their dinners early to head out for the best door-buster deals. Meanwhile, others are leaving their families even earlier to head to their retail jobs for the craziest night of the year. As they venture out, they likely have many things on their mind and are probably dreading the night. With Covid-19 still prevalent, this Black Friday, like last year’s, may bring on extra stress and anxiety. However, even with the threat of the virus, I doubt that most workers will be worried about extraterrestrial zombies terrorizing their store. In director Casey Tebo’s Black Friday, though, that’s exactly what happens.
The film begins with a meteor crashing into a store on Thanksgiving. A strange substance is found inside the meteor by an employee. Later on, that worker attacks two of his colleagues. At the same time, a group at the town’s largest toy store, We Love Toys, are preparing for a long shift. Jonathan (Bruce Campbell, Starz’s Ash vs Evil Dead series), the owner of the store, is expecting huge sales numbers during this annual retail extravaganza. On the other hand, Ken (Devon Sawa, Hunter Hunter), a long-tenured associate, is just hoping to survive another extremely stressful night while expending as little energy as possible. Unfortunately, both Jonathan and Ken are not going to get what they want, as customers begin to become infected by the virus and wreak havoc on the toy store. Now they, along with the rest of the staff, have to find a way to survive as the packed crowds all morph into bloodthirsty creatures.
Black Friday contains many interesting discussions and much humor centered around retail and the crazy holiday, and this is where the film is at its best. Characters discuss how Black Friday has ruined Thanksgiving, how people are all so greedy, and how insane the idea of the day really is. Director Tebo (Steven Tyler: Out on a Limb) does a good job showcasing the horrors of working retail, especially on Black Friday, and the different reasons why people choose to do so. Our main cast of characters start out as a bland bunch, but as the film goes on, we get to learn more about their personal motivations and goals. There’s a great dynamic between the overworked store employees and the greedy store owner (Jonathan) throughout the film that generates some tension.
Sadly, the writing is subpar at points and negatively effects that tension. Much of the dialogue is run-of-the-mill and many jokes don’t land. Some of the performances are subpar, as well, further sinking the dialogue. Also, the film’s main plot, fighting the alien zombies, is a bit of a mixed bag. The design of the creatures is fine and unique, and they don’t behave exactly like every other zombie you see out there. However, the action scenes in which the store employees fight the monsters are very quick and unspectacular. There are not as many zombies as you’d think there would be in a crowded store on Black Friday and the group rarely seems like they’re in actual danger. Finally, near the end of the film the story gets completely bonkers and a bit outlandish, even for a horror comedy.
As you can see, I have mixed feelings about the movie. On one hand, it features intriguing commentary on Black Friday and the retail world and a decent cast of characters. But, on the other hand, the fighting sequences are dull, there’s some poorly written dialogue and underwhelming performances, and the conclusion of the film gets out of hand. I think Black Friday could be worth a watch if only to see a fun, disposable comedy with a few horror/sci-fi elements and some decent retail humor. However, if you’re looking for a tension-filled, gory zombie flick with some additional humor added in, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere. Just like many people on the actual holiday, you have the choice to take a risk with Black Friday or skip it and start watching your favorite classics of the holiday season, instead.