Fantastic Fest Review: Casey Tebo’s ‘Black Friday’
Working retail during the yearly “Black Friday” sales that in modern times start on Thanksgiving night is something almost anyone would agree is a nightmare. In Casey Tebo’s darkly comedic holiday horror film Black Friday it’s taken to the extreme, as this year’s festive bargain hunting is interrupted by a meteor shower that ends up unleashing a parasitic alien life form capable of infecting human hosts to do it’s bidding or absorbing them to grow in size. After the viewer is clued in to the intergalactic evil awaiting the employees and customers alike via the film’s amusingly over the top opening, the story begins following the hallowed souls scheduled to work the dreaded ten hour overnight shift at a big box toy store as they report for work. There’s an ensemble cast making up the store employees featuring the divorced middle-age dad Ken played by Devon Sawa (Final Destination, Idle Hands), the germophobic young Chris played by Ryan Lee (Super 8, Goosebumps), the fiercely independent Marnie played by Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth), the laid back tough guy Archie played by Michael Jai White (Spawn, Black Dynamite), the store-loving manager Johnathan played by Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness), and the eager new hire Emmett played by Louie Kurtzman (Poser), among others.
There’s a short “calm before the storm” sequence allowing the viewer time to hone in on the character dynamics as well as get in some good laughs before the action kicks off with a customer becoming infected and Chris is forced to use a battery powered children’s vehicle as a bludgeon to dispatch the creature. This hilariously violent encounter sets the stage perfectly for the comedy-infused, horror action sequences that will make up most of the film, and this rapid-fire pacing allows the admittedly light character development to happen quite organically in the midst of all the chaos. It pokes a lot of fun at consumerism and corporate ideals, though it’s not deep by any means and it doesn’t really need to be. There’s heaps of laughs, gallons of bloodshed, and solid visuals brought to life by renowned effects artist Robert Kurtzman who’s worked on some massive films during his illustrious career. It’s all accompanied by an ever-present holiday spirit that manifests itself through the set design and wardrobe as well as the music that ranges from traditional holiday songs to more comical, punk rock riffs on classic tracks.
The writing isn’t perfect with it sometimes being evident the filmmakers were working on a limited budget after spending so much of it on talent, yet despite it’s shortcomings Black Friday hits basically all of the marks you’d expect from a horror themed holiday comedy: it’s funny, bloody, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome clocking in at a brief eighty-four minute runtime. The climax of the film is absolutely bonkers, featuring some epic fights and major laughs while leaving things open for a potential sequel. With a concept that’s quite different than most holiday horror affairs, this unique entry will no doubt become a yearly watch for many horror fans where it’ll feel right at home opening out their holiday-themed watchlists. Luckily you won’t have to wait in line either, as Black Friday is available on VOD now.