While you’re in a post-turkey trance, satisfy your seasonal cravings with “Black Friday” — a priceless piece of B-movie holiday horror.
Everyone loves taking advantage of a stupendously great deal, and there are few better deals than those found on Black Friday in retail stores across the country on the day after Thanksgiving.
That tradition of venturing into the crowded aisles of Target, Best Buy, and Walmart means that one could spend four times less on a 60” flat-screen TV than on an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Even when “going into the black” means that retailers would move their profits from “in the red” (i.e., unprofitable) to profitable, Black Friday sales also set the tone for the holiday season to come. And today, those discounts are found online as early as October and as late as Cyber Monday.
But braving the crowds and taking advantage of those discounted prices in real-time remains a rite of passage of the shopping experience even when it would be easier to send a gift card.
The 2021 film Black Friday, directed by Casey Tebo – a horror-adjacent black comedy of chaos – tells the tale of a toy store challenged with opening its doors on Thanksgiving night even though its employees lack the spirit necessary to survive the night.
Then, led by manager Jonathan (Bruce Campbell of The Evil Dead (1981)), the staff will have to survive an army of mutated shoppers with more on their minds than pinching pennies. These gate-breaking minions are here to take over the planet.
The film itself is a throwback to 1950s drive-in sci-fi shlock.
The picture provides little explanation of the origins of the otherworldly invaders and instead focuses on the film’s would-be heroes. The movie doesn’t bog itself down with background stories for its protagonists. Yet, the filmmakers do a fantastic job of casting some familiar faces, including Ryan Lee (Super 8) as germaphobic Chris and Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite) as the testosterone-fueled Archie.
Meanwhile, awkward romantic interests Marnie & Ken – Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth) & Devon Sawa (Final Destination) – round out the ragtag team of underpaid foot soldiers tasked with saving the suburban toy store from alien domination.
Even Seth Green (Robot Chicken) lends his voice to the self-deprecating animatronic Teddy Ruxpin-like Dour Doug. Instead of inspiring hope and joy like his Worlds of Wonder predecessor, the film’s mechanical teddy bear is a defective piece of toy making. Yet, Dour Doug isn’t the only defect that will rear its ugly head this holiday season.
Because what a defect commercialism is, according to the film.
Black Friday could have set its sights on any number of targets, but it settled upon that hallowed holiday of spending: the day after Thanksgiving and those entitled individuals who can make the in-person, real-time experience so miserable.
This glitch in what should otherwise be a weeks-long bliss from Thanksgiving Day until Christmas morning is precisely what Black Friday exploits, tapping into that anticipated joy like an ore of gold.
So many other holiday-themed movies attempt to capture the Christmas season’s magic, even over-sentimentalizing it to the point of buffoonery. But Black Friday pulls back the curtain that leads into the employee break room, where real people earn miserable wages while trying to appease customers prepared to storm the store in a last stand of commerce.
Black Friday, the pseudo-holiday itself, has become all about toys. And things. And more things, anything that can be discounted and shoved into a shopping cart.
But with its heartwarmingly bombastic approach and its poignant ruminations of regret and dollar signs and time and bottom lines and family, BLACK FRIDAY hardly resembles the capitalist holiday from which it borrows its name.
The film straddles a very delicate line and does so incredibly well.
It delivers all the fun that the holiday season promises, as well as the pensive reflection that should come with holidays such as these, especially when we’re distracted by buying the latest, greatest gift — or when we forget that a frantic visit to a department store can’t create the memories that are truly priceless this time of year.
There’s nothing black or dark or untoward about a memory like that.
So once you’ve finished your turkey dinner this year, what you’re really looking for is on the center shelf halfway down aisle 7, on your right.
Black Friday may be the B-movie gift that keeps on giving, and everyone loves taking advantage of a stupendously great deal.