Review: BLACK FRIDAY- Temper Expectations and You Might Enjoy the Fun Albeit Forgettable Ride of this Holiday Horror Satire

By: John M Jerva

I’ve been a retail sales worker for over thirteen years now and when I saw that they were making a satire on Black Friday which featured lowly workers having the worst shopping day ever, I was immediately drawn to it. Throw in the fact that it stars Devon Sawa, Michael Jai White and the legendary Bruce Campbell and you had me at shoppers turning into ravenous creatures.

That’s exactly what you get with the new indie horror-comedy aptly titled Black Friday. Coming from director Casey Tebo, the movie tells the darkly comedic tale of a group of wayward retail workers at the gloriously named We Love Toys who must break into action and rise to the occasion when meteorites unleash lethal parasites that turns already ravenous shoppers into monstrous creatures. And you thought you’ve seen it all on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Black Friday knows what kind of movie it is and what it’s going for and if you set you expectation meter to the lower range, you might just enjoy a little of what this homage to some classic horror flicks like The Blob has to offer. Unfortunately for me, I was expecting more and while I did laugh a little and enjoy the monster action, Black Friday left me wanting ….well, more.

First of all, the cast does a great job with the material at hand and Devon Sawa leads the charge as slacker worker Ken. He’s bummed over his divorce and he loves his two girls but he’s also hating the fact that a temporary gig after he got laid off has turned into a full time job. There’s also germaphobic twenty something Chris (Ryan Lee) who has a bad deal with his father and wants more for himself. We also have Marnie ( Ivana Baquero) who is the center of Ken’s affections even though she’s not into the relationship as much as he is.

Rounding out the cast is action and martial arts star Michael Jai White who serves up more of an extended cameo as Archie, one of the workers who hates his job. Top it off with Evil Dead and genre icon Bruce Campbell who plays the store manager Jonathan and this is one fine cast who knows how to work it with the type of movie they’re in.

Black Friday is an OK movie but it could have been better as I felt some of it was forced and a lot of the humor fell flat. Like I said, I’m a retail worker myself and I was looking for more jabbing fun to be had as the real Black Friday is a bit ridiculous and it always shows off the worse in people. The movie starts off on the right note but once things get going, it doesn’t know what it wants to be.

There are some funny parts to be had and the initial three actors I was excited to see in Sawa, White and Campbell do fine with their roles but I was looking for more on the satirical side that was inevitably a missed opportunity. The script from Andy Greskoviak has a few bright spots and gives the cast some killer material to work with but in the end, it was more of a letdown and I thought he could have injected more wit and fun into the proceedings.

Sawa puts the movie on his shoulders and he’s always been one of my favorite actors in any genre. He plays Ken with a blend of humor, sadness and bravado that is perfect for the leading role and I was happy to see Campbell be involved more as I thought he would be more of a cameo. Don’t expect Ash from The Evil Dead as his character of Jonathan is the complete opposite but I thought it was fitting as if he played it like his famous character, it should have been in more Evil Dead films. He is one of the funnier aspects of the film and he should be.

Michael Jai White is solid per usual as Archie but unfortunately he is given the least amount to do. I would have loved to see his character stick around longer and I felt that he would have had some great chemistry with Sawa if he was more involved. It was disappointing to see White start to break into some of his on screen bad assery but sadly it’s cut short just as it was starting to get good.

The creature action does get gory and fun with our staple of slacker heroes doing what they can to stay alive. Genre fans will have plenty to sink their teeth into as the movie, at a brisk 79 minutes, never takes its foot off the gas pedal and delivers some outrageous kills throughout. One funny altercation comes from one of the “new guys” who is turned early on.

For a smaller scale pic, the special effects are quite impressive and there’s some transformations that will remind you of an American Werewolf in London. Tebo definitely is a fan of this subgenre and it shows that he wants to do justice to the material and pay respect to the older films that this one emulates.

Overall, Black Friday is an adequate distraction for this holiday week but it could have been so much more and I wanted a little more bite to my satire. The cast is having fun and the creature action is solid for a lower budgeted affair but I wanted more over the top and fun chemistry between the leads. If you temper your expectations and know what you’re getting into when viewing then this movie will entertain for a couple of viewings.

It gets a little ridiculous in a not so good way and the ending is a little abrupt but it does have a sense of craziness to it that serves its purpose. I basically have a love/hate relationship with this flick. Don’t expect too much out of it and you might just enjoy the fast and nonsensical ride it offers.

Verdict: 3 Out of 5 Stars

Black Friday is a somewhat fun, forgettable ride that unfortunately will leave genre fans wanting more.

Now playing in select theaters and VOD from Screen Media Films

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