It’s Thanksgiving night and one of the most important days of the year is about to begin:
Well, it’s important if you happen to be running a big, strip mall Toy Store, and your bosses expect you to make a lot of money before the store closes for the day.
A lot of money.
Unfortunately, this would just happen to be the Black Friday when a storm of meteorites fall all over the place, carrying weird alien creatures with them. Before you know it, the alien goo has taken over hordes of crazed shoppers.
And we know just how frightening they were before they became alien mutants…
Now we’ve all seen a zombie film of one sort or another, so the basic setup here should be familiar, with a small group of survivors besieged by hordes of creatures and getting picked off one by one while they bicker with each other. I’ll let you decide whether this situation could be described as “classic” — or a cliche.
Still, Black Friday deserves a lot of credit for setting it all in an “I Love Toys” store with its bright colors, eye-catching toys, and its calculated commercial appeal to the innocent fun of childhood. It’s all an absurd contrast to the increasingly horrible hordes of ravening monsters — one which is used to great effect, particularly if you compare it to something like The Banana Splits Movie, which chose to take the bright and surreal world of the old TV show and instead fill it with gloom and some very standard desaturated horror film lighting.
Heck, even the big monster is bright, colorful — and glows in a cheerful shade of magenta.
Now we all know that the big draw here is Bruce Campbell, who is playing the store manager. However, he’s playing a deliberately unheroic character and his against his usual larger than life persona. He looks older here than he did in Ash vs. the Living Dead, which isn’t exactly shocking — but he also looks rather fat and middle-aged, which is more of a surprise. He really doesn’t shine in this one, even if he gets a few good moments. I’m not entirely certain he’s cut out to be a character actor, but considering his rather curious career to date it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he does well in that role.
Devon Sawa is the real star here, playing Ken, the aging “coolest guy in the store” who is forced to confront who he really is before the end. He deserves a lot of credit for keeping Ken likeable and sympathetic, even after we see his feet of clay.
Black Friday is not a new classic of the genre nor was it really trying to be one. Instead, it is a light-hearted and enjoyable little horror comedy which is there to entertain us and succeeds admirably. It offers a few interesting callbacks to past horror films (including John Carpenter’s The Thing and even Quatermass 2), reasonably good makeup and creature effects, and even a bit of character-based comedy.
Which puts it way ahead of most of the horror comedies out there…