In the anti-consumerist horror comedy Black Friday, a ragtag group of toy store employees try to fight off an infectious horde of customers during the worst day of the year to work in retail. Oh, and Bruce Campbell is their boss.
Our story takes place in the We Love Toys megastore, where employees are working through the night to prepare for the Black Friday rush. We’ve got a deadbeat dad, a hot young nihilist, know-it-all managers who have bought into the fairytale of consumerism, and a germaphobe. Behind the scenes sits the manager of the store, played by Bruce Campbell; a benign, cheerful boss with an underlying desire for control.
Prepping for sales is like prepping for war here, and as employees steel themselves, the usual workplace politics begin to come out – who’s sleeping with who, who’s in line to be laid off, whether they’re getting their holiday bonus. Anyone who’s worked in retail or customer service will find this to be incredibly close to the bone, and as the film goes on we see resentments build to boiling point.
Although a little slow to start, Black Friday’s build-up makes it feel like a zombie movie from the start, with clear allusions to Day of the Dead in customers ravenously scrabbling to get into the store. Some look a little green around the gills, and we watch their sickness progress until their true monstrousness is revealed. Are they aliens, zombies, deadites, vampires or monsters? We don’t know, and frankly it doesn’t matter.
Black Friday isn’t subtle in its metaphors: the customers are literally monsters, and the employees list their time working for the company as though it were a prison sentence. Each one of them has a traumatic experience to share even before the Eldritch blob of glowing pustules makes its appearance, driving shoppers and staff alike to spread their sickness and become one with the monstrous fleshy mound.
The monster effects are gruesome, gross and genuinely pretty scary as they build over the course of the film through excellent prosthetics and puppetry. It’s truly old school and by golly it works a treat! The team even created a perfectly ironic teddy bear named Dour Dennis for the store, whose constant narrative of “my back hurts” and “it’s just one of those days” serves as a constant reminder that at its heart, this is a dark comedy (and also I want one, thank you please).
As the first feature film written by Andy Greskoviak, directed by music video and documentary aficionado Casey Tebo (with production from Mr Campbell himself), and with a skater punk soundtrack by Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, the film pulls together a surprisingly killer bunch of actors, including Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth) to Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite, Spawn, The Dark Knight) and Devon Sawa (Final Destination, Idle Hands).
Black Friday is anti-capitalist, satirical and self-aware, with generous nods to Peter Jackson, George A Romero and Sam Raimi, featuring Bruce Campbell in a bow tie; and if that doesn’t sell you on this horror comedy, nothing will.