Holiday horror has cemented its status as a legit sub-genre in the last few years. There has been the occasional film every few years to fulfill that demand, but it seems that the popularity of “best of” lists have helped spread its niche. The original bad boys like Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night are probably the most popular. Black Christmas not only remains a classic, but helped set the standard for future slashers like Halloween and The House on Sorority Row. Silent Night, Deadly Night was notorious for angering the Karens of the 80s for portraying an evil, ax-wielding Santa in their marketing campaign. While publicity like that would kill a movie back in the day, it’s what catapulted into cult status with poster variants now emphasizing its supposed negative criticism. In the last few years, it seems there are several new offerings on an annual basis trying to become the next holiday horror classic. Krampus has been the most high profile, seeing a wide release in theaters and starring A-list actors like fan-favorite Toni Collette (Hereditary). Now, we have BLACK FRIDAY trying to enter the scene with some familiar genre faces, but it falls down the chimney as soon as death makes its presence known.
A group of employees of a toy store has their huddle, preparing for the awful shopping day that every retail worker dreads. The comradery is apparent, with Ken (Devon Sawa) seemingly being our leader of the pack. He’s one of the oldest in the group, not hiding his disdain for his current employment status as well as being in the middle of a divorce. He also knows he’s still got it when it comes to the ladies which is apparent with his fling with a very young associate. They conclude the pep talk and open their doors for the flood of hungry consumers. As expected, the customers are all assholes and they have to close their doors early when someone gets attacked. The employees soon find themselves trapped inside their hellish store when a slimy, pink alien creature starts to infect people and turn them into killer zombie-like creatures.
BLACK FRIDAY succeeds in its first act in giving us a satirical look at retail hell during the holidays. Everyone needs a job and just trying to put their happy face on when the monsters that are holiday shoppers treat them like crap. Brian (Stephen Peck) steals the show in these scenes as the condescending junior manager. His snark remarks and fake smile to the employees totally added some flavor to a rather dry script. I wouldn’t be surprised if viewers point at him and think “I worked with someone like that.” Sawa has been continuously acting, but lately has re-embraced the genre as he is currently a regular on the amazing Chucky TV series. Fans of his should follow his social media if they’re not already as he interacts with fans, posting self-deprecating memes about his earlier roles as well as catering to thirsty followers by posting himself doing jumping jacks in grey sweatpants. He’s that cool kind of celebrity that everyone should be.
Bruce Campbell also has some fun with his role as manager Jonathan, a corporate ass-kissing piece of work that leads the employees to believe they are getting holiday bonuses. Campbell is perfect for the role as he’s made a career out of playing smart ass, fast-talking anti-heroes. He may not be the villain in the Evil Dead franchise, but he makes quite a few choices that lead to the mayhem. Maybe that’s his charm as he’s not your average action leading man, but he has a way with words. His casting feels appropriate and his swagger helps elevate the limitations of the character.
The main issue with BLACK FRIDAY is that it’s a beautiful 80 minutes, but has incredibly slow pacing. The most interesting characters have the shortest screen time and the horror sequences are actually the least exciting. Chase sequences lack any suspense and the characters have zero chemistry, leaving any kind of remorse out the door. They are either annoying or simply just bad people so you want to see a gruesome death, which the film is lacking. There’s a final act that was very ambitious, but the CGI monster that becomes Godzilla-size will leave you feeling embarrassed for the actors.
With a slow pace and lack of exciting characters, BLACK FRIDAY is a holiday entry not worth skipping Thanksgiving dinner for.
BLACK FRIDAY is available in theaters on November 19, 2021, and will be available On Demand on November 23, 2021.