The Hubrisween That Wasn’t: B

According to my master list, the letter B was going to be represented by The Body Snatcher (1945), because I have a personal tradition that each Hubrisween should include a Boris Karloff movie.

Instead, you’re going to get a movie I actually did watch.

B: Black Friday (2021)

First of all, do you now, or have you ever, worked retail?

Oh, God, I am so sorry.

There was a year or so, back in college, when I worked retail. At a small record store in a small college town. It was eventually obvious that for the sake of myself and the health of the commonweal, that I should not be in a position to interact with the public. Honestly, most people are fine. It’s just that the ones who are not are the ones that stick in your craw, or your memory’s craw, however that works. I’m not even sure what a craw is.

So Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving (or, as we shall see, the evening of), with ballyhooed bargains, first come, first served, seems engineered by capitalism to provide an excuse for gladiatorial games between consumers, giving rise to horrific spectacle and schadenfreude-laced news stories.

It’s really kind of amazing that it’s taken this long for a horror movie to use it as a backdrop.

So we have a toy store that has a staff trying to gird its loins for the doors to open at 9PM to a waiting line of potential combatants. What they don’t know (but we do, because we saw the movie’s prologue) is the recent spate of meteor showers are not space debris at all, but an invasion of fairly grotesque alien creatures that infect and absorb earthlings – think The Thing except it doesn’t care much for concealment, it goes for the gusto. Soon every shopper is a mutating beastie that wants to either kill or infect (sometimes both) everybody else, and our crew find themselves locked in a store that is not terribly secure and trying to survive the night, with varying degrees of luck (mostly bad) in the process.

First of all: as an alien invasion flick that takes most of its inspiration from the first third of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, it’s pretty good. Second of all, realize it’s a horror comedy, with all that entails. Unfortunately it seems to entail getting our characters from the Stereotype Rolodex, so I hope you asked Santa for some forbearance.

One of our main characters, Chris (Ryan Lee) is a germophobe, which gets really tedious. Ken (Devon Sawa) is a divorced dad and slacker who somehow wound up working in the store for ten years. Marnie (Ivana Barquero) …is a cipher, but it falls to her to be the voice of reason for most of the picture. And so it goes.

Your big marquee values are Bruce Campbell as Jonathan, the store manager, and for the most part manages to not play him as a version of Ash who made it to management, but he does use all the chops he’s been honing over the years to a fine edge, playing a guy who is always in way over his head. Also onboard is Michael Jai White as Archie, a maintenance guy, which means he’s always walking around with a bunch of tools that will come in handy. I mean, he’s Michael Jai White. Does that mean he’s going to be kicking some alien ass? What do you think? (Spoiler, though: not as much as you’d like)

Probably the actual best scene in the movie is when our core of survivors have boarded themselves up in a back room, and Marnie has found a pack of turkey cold cuts, allowing them to have what might be a final Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a scene that actually has some character development – bare as it may be – and felt like a welcome relief after the hectic preliminaries. Then things go to hell all over again.

I like Black Friday well enough – it’s entertaining all the way through, when you’re not rolling your eyes at Chris’ crippling germophobia being played for laughs. The effects are good, but a lot of horror fans are going to complain that they’re not gooey enough or sufficiently gross. It’s likely not going to be part of my regular holiday movie rotation. I could be wrong about that, and it’s certainly worth a look if you’re a fan of any of the actors or horror comedies in general – or especially if you work retail and would like to see some customers worked over with a nail gun.

As a PS, I will also add that the story’s Hot Toy of the Season is Dour Dennis – a plush Teddy Bear with a business shirt and tie, who says things like “I’m so tired” and “I’m not doing very well.” He’s being recalled because he has a tendency to burst into flames. Maybe he’s made by Tesla or something.

Filmmakers, it is pronounced “doer”, not “dower”. You made me yell at my TV and hurt its feelings.

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