‘Black Friday’ Review: “Too Much Gristle”
There has been an oddly small amount of Christmas/holiday movies in 2021. Although we have a plethora of older movies to choose from, the prospect of something new is always exciting. Additionally, not many holiday movies are also horror movies (the last few being the Black Christmas remake and Krampus). The idea of a zombie movie based on Black Friday was almost too perfect of a setup. Great setting, allegory on the animosity of Black Friday, and Bruce Campbell. Even with all that going for them, Black Friday just didn’t land.
Black Friday follows a group of retail employees preparing for their annual Black Friday sale. There are some stand out characters with the leader Ken (Devon Sawa), the leading woman Marnie (Ivana Baquero), and the nervous nerd Chris (Ryan Lee). Amongst the animosity set to occur from the sale, a parasitic-zombie-like creature begins infecting shoppers. The zombies take no time to quickly overwhelm the retail employees, and they must find a way to survive the threat and escape.
Black Friday isn’t afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve. Elements of The Evil Dead, Intruder, and The Thing are very much at the forefront. When the movie is tackling the monsters and the issue head on, it really drives. Although those scenes aren’t as plentiful as I would have hoped, when the movie is driving it’s a good time! Bruce Campbell as the detestable store manager, Jonathan, is definitely a stand out. The only other character I thought was a stand out was Michael Jai White as Archie. However, he’s killed too early on to make that big of an impression on the viewer.
There seemed to be no sense of inventiveness amongst the cavalcade of characters. It seemed as if no one was trying to survive like it was their last night alive. The tell for me was halfway through the movie when the employees banter about being told they weren’t getting their holiday bonus. Which in most movies would be fine, but their top priority should be getting the hell out of the store and/or destroying the threat. Really, this plays more like a soap opera with zombies sprinkled in at times. Even at the end, it just does too much with questionable decision making and weird ulterior motives. Do you remember the old Wendy’s commercials with the old lady asking people “Where’s the Beef?” With Black Friday there was barely any “meat” here – just noise and gristle.
I understand that this was an allegory on consumerism and how corporations are willing to perpetuate it at the cost of their employees. But at times it felt it needed to use the exposition to show that. The zombies and some shallow decisions made by the manager could have done the heavy lifting. Sadly, we get a little bit of that covered in a layer of fatty exposition. Which is a major bummer considering the 84 minute runtime. We do get some time to develop interest in the main characters, but their setup had no payoff when the credits rolled.
I’m sad we didn’t get the movie this could have been. Black Friday is a severely okay zombie/holiday flick which will scratch that proverbial itch you may have. If we were to get a sequel to this movie, I’d hope we just cut straight to the meat. – Jacob Mauceri
Black Friday is available on VOD.