November 18, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. The horror-comedy genre boasts many movies that can be described as ‘a blast’ or ‘a wild ride’. Director Casey Tebo and writer Andy Greskoviak wisely jump on a topic that lends itself all too well to this genre: the whole mess we call Black Friday shopping. Ingeniously setting this in a toy store (“We Love Toys”), focusing on the stressed-out employees, and assembling what seems like the perfect cast, the filmmakers somehow come up short, due mostly to a paucity of effective one-liners and visual gags so necessary in a project like this.

Devon Sawa (FINAL DESTINATION, 2000) stars as Ken, the divorced father who is pained at having to drop his kids at his ex-wife’s house as he heads in for his Black Friday shift at the store. We are then introduced to others on the store staff, including Ivana Baquero (Ofelia in the Guillermo del Toro instant classic PAN’S LABYRINTH, 2006) as Marnie, Ryan Lee (SUPER 8, 2011) as germophobe Chris, Michael Jai White (SPAWN, 1997) as Archie the maintenance guy, and Stephen Peck as Bryan, the power-abusing Assistant Manager. Leading this group of misfits is the always-great Bruce Campbell (the EVIL DEAD franchise) as Jonathan, the Store Manager and corporate lackey.

In an early scene we hear a TV newscast that forewarns of an upcoming meteor event, and the science fiction element involves a gooey alien creature/substance that causes even more turmoil than the shortages of this year’s must-have toys. Shoppers are transformed into zombie-flesh-eating-alien-mutants, and the toy store staff teams up in an effort to stay alive. All of the actors do their part. Sawa is effective as the leader, while Baquero lends a strong female presence. White is the epitome of a nail-gun toting action hero, and Campbell delivers his comic force while donning a bow-tie and cardigan. The special effects work, and the only thing missing are searing and cutting quips and one-liners that would complete the picture.

ZOMBIELAND (2009), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (2016), THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019), READY OR NOT (2019), and the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy are all films in this genre that actually delivered what this one should have … what it teased. One Air Supply joke and a riff on corporate greed and out-of-control entitled holiday shoppers was a tremendous idea that would have benefitted from more humorous social commentary. It’s a letdown that may yet find a place the Midnight Movie slot.

Available in theaters and On Demand beginning November 19, 2021



December 19, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. The initial assumption is that this is a story of a lone wolf stalking a family. Early on, it shifts into the story of Joseph Mersault, a throwback trapper teaching his 13 year old daughter how to survive off the land. Yet, what writer-director Shawn Linden ultimately delivers is the story of Joseph’s wife, Anne, who combats not only the wolf, but something even worse.

Joseph (Devon Sawa) is one grumpy dude. He’s no fan of society or people, and the only pleasures he seems to find in life are living in an isolated cabin and teaching his daughter Renee (Summer H Howell) how to do the same. They are joined in this quiet and very hard life by wife and mother, Anne (Camille Sullivan). Anne dutifully carries out her chores, but dreams of a more normal life for herself and her daughter. The family barters animal skins for food and supplies and live mostly off the grid – and we later learn there are complications to even something as simple as their cabin.

The forests of Manitoba provide what the family needs, but just barely. Winter is approaching and now a wolf is stealing from their traps, leaving them short of food. This wolf has previously stalked the family, and Joseph aims to hunt him down. The camera work in the forest is terrific – giving us the visual beauty, as well as the constant danger. And in this story, danger and traps take on many forms, including the secrets folks keep from each other.

The wolf only makes a couple of appearances, yet the threat is always present. There is a terrific sequence that cuts between Joseph, Anne, and Renee, as each are in different areas of the forest at the same time. Each of the situations is tension-filled and our minds are bouncing around as much as the characters. Other characters enter the story, including a couple of Rangers who are unprepared for what they are about to face, and another character (Nick Stahl) who shifts the entire dynamic of the film.

Director Linden gives us a survival thriller, one that probably best compares to LEAVE NO TRACE. This one is also a psychological study of just what a person is capable of when pushed to the limit. Anne’s story is about her ability to navigate this world while raising a daughter. The final sequence leads to extreme violence, and acts as her emotional release every bit as much as rage and revenge.

VOD beginning December 18, 2020

watch the trailer