I haven't been paying close attention to the slasher genre lately, and I have more than bloody likely missed out on some gems I have yet to explore (like most horror movies in my life, it's usually about catching up). But I can say that speaking for myself, this is one of the best slasher flicks I've seen in a long time. There's something about it that feels more of the 80s slasher genre I love so much, as it's complete with a sense of humour, has a cheesy edge to it, and has a 'Scream' feel to it; a movie which parodies 80s horror altogether!
Like with most slasher horror out there, plenty of critics will give it some digs, but if there's one thing I know about director Eli Roth, he's not in it much for critical recognition as opposed to making his fans cringe in all the best ways possible. With that in mind, my overall familiarity with the man was the torture porn bar-raiser, 'Hostel,' the film that ultimately made me realize torture horror was not for me. Although I still say the ending of it was kinda badass. Anyway, I kinda thought I would be getting more of that here. But I was pleasantly surprised! It's not without a bit of the torture that makes me so squeamish, but Roth otherwise does a great job with the variety in his kills here. It's definitely one for the gore hounds!
In Plymouth, MA, on Thanksgiving, 2022, a crowd gathers outside a "RightMart" department store, positively rabid for a Black Friday sale. The crowd then notices off to the side that film lead Jessica Wright (Nell Verlaque), daughter of store owner Thomas Wright (Rick Hoffman), lets her boyfriend, Bobby (Jalen Thomas Brooks) and friends Evan (Tomaso Sanelli), Gabby (Addison Rae), Scuba (Gabriel Davenport) and Yulia (Jenna Warren) in through a side door. This invokes a riot, chaos happens, and it's a brutal reminder of why shopping online for Black Friday is a much better idea. It may not be as big a problem now, but I still can't be mad at Roth for putting his horrific spin on the concept.
One year later, as RightMart prepares for another sale, ignoring what happened the previous year and ignoring protesters, mostly fuelled by Thomas' new wife, Kathleen (Karen Cliche) and her desire to put money above anything else. Meanwhile, a social media post tags Jessica and her friends, showing a Thanksgiving table with place settings with their names on them. It's soon discovered that this poster is a mysterious man dressed as John Carver, who is seemingly getting some kind of revenge on several people involved in the Black Friday sale of the previous year, according to town sheriff Eric Newlon (Patrick Dempsey).
I think that perhaps the biggest standout of this movie is the kills themselves. As morbid as it may sound, this brings some originality and "Hollywood Meat" to the forefront and does a great balance between making you cringe and making you say "Oooh! Damn!" This is just a me thing, but I would say that I haven't seen kills this original since probably 'Final Destination 5', which did an amazing job with its fake-out kills. But again, remember that the horror I've missed over the past few years could probably fill half a video store (for those of you who remember them).
But on top of a bunch of crazy kills, it should also be noted that there's a pretty solid comedic aspect to this flick as well. One scene in particular, around the middle of the movie, is almost guaranteed to have a laugh to lighten the mood. I won't say what it is, but you'll know when you see it because it stands out that much. But even with the solid kills and sense of humour, Roth still expands on things with a touch of father/daughter drama that takes nothing away from anything and a climactic scene that allows Roth to turn up the intensity levels.
Before wrapping this review up, I have a few things for readers to consider. For starters, this feels like a major callback to the era of 80s slasher, where viewers come to see some kills and not take the film seriously. You're not going to have much fun with this if you're going to try taking anything about it seriously. It's pure horror entertainment at its finest, and one can think of it almost as a 'Scream' movie with the gore factor cranked to eleven. This is definitely one for fans of the slasher horror genre who aren't looking for any kind of seriousness attached to it because, after all, this DID come from a 'Grindhouse' trailer in the first place.