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Black Friday Review – IGN

Black Friday premieres in theaters in limited release on Nov. 19, and video on demand on Nov. 23.

Zombie flicks rarely come without social commentary or subtext, and since the ’80s, ugly consumerism has been one of those running, recurring themes — so much so that, over decades, it became sort of a rote trope that had worn out its welcome. Low-budget glopfest Black Friday, however, manages to freshen the air with a slimy, sinister story that speaks directly to those in the thankless world of customer service and the abuse they endure from both ends of the capitalist chain.

Starring scream kings Bruce Campbell and Devon Sawa, Black Friday takes place during America’s busiest shopping day of the year: the Friday after Thanksgiving, a day meant to screw over customers and workers alike so that companies can make record profits. Right out of the gate, our hero workers, who are expected to bond over this tradition of shared misery, have to deal with unrelenting hordes of aggressive shoppers. But throw in an alien meteor shower-fueled Body Snatcher attack and Black Friday delivers a solid single-location “survive the night” screamer that’s gory, goofy, and surprisingly wise. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, per se, but it’s usually amusing, and, well, gooey.

Black Friday takes the ragtag crew of employees at a giant store called We Love Toys, who are accustomed to grinding away at a job they resent, and tosses them together for an end-of-the-world blow out in a way that entertainingly engages the theme of how much precious time we give to our jobs. During a time of year when the corporate world, and our country’s actual economy, demands that people clock in instead of spending time with friends or family, these poor souls must now come to terms with possibly spending their final hours with crappy coworkers instead of loved ones.

Again, marauding masses out to “buy buy buy!” have been getting the brainless zombie treatment in horror movies forever, but Black Friday shifts the narrative nicely to spotlight the never-ending short-sheeting of those behind the register. With people more than ever now rejecting the rigors and low rewards of service industry employment, Black Friday is a gross-out good time that gives us a rare gem of a Thanksgiving bloodbath.

Sawa plays “cool guy” Ken, the divorced dad of the bunch, who the traditions of the genre would have you believe is the hero of the story because he’s handsome and has kids and doesn’t fall into too niche of a pocket as a character to be a quirky sidekick. Black Friday toys around with conventions cleverly though, directly addressing these characters’ individual traits in a way that humanizes them. It’s meta, since it’s busting a few survival horror clichés, but it also speaks to how coworkers view each other sometimes, never realizing the journey the other person’s on or the life they’ve lived.

Director Casey Tebo does a lot with somewhat little.


Campbell plays against his Evil Dead champion type wonderfully here as a dopey, weaselly store manager. But even this role, which is typically there for Stooge-style laughs, is given extra layers as things become more dire with the whole “extraterrestrial pod people are taking over the world” deal. Others in the cast include Pan’s Labyrinth’s Ivana Baquero, Goosebumps’ Ryan Lee, Stephen Peck, and Spawn’s Michael Jai White (as that one guy you work with who seems built for an alien apocalypse). As the danger mounts, the ensemble starts exhibiting a Breakfast Club dynamic, revealing more complex personalities while also never losing their baseline comedic sting.

Director Casey Tebo does a lot with somewhat little here, which is a time-honored hallmark of horror. The story’s kept tight, the location’s used to its fullest, and the characters are engaging enough that it’s their reactions to the terror, and various plans to try and get away, that we care about the most. Plus, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump deftly handles the score and various needle drops, helping create a uniquely textured horror comedy that now, with 2021 nearing a close, holds even more layers to it than perhaps even originally intended.

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