By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Continuing the article that began here, we present a further discussion of BLACK FRIDAY, which hits select theaters this Friday, November 19 and VOD November 23 from Screen Media. Casey Tebo directed from a script by Andy Greskoviak, and Bruce Campbell plays Jonathan, manager of a toy store that falls under siege from shoppers turned ravenous ghouls by an alien infection on the titular night. The genre-friendly cast also includes Devon Sawa (FINAL DESTINATION, IDLE HANDS), Ivana Baquero (PAN’S LABYRINTH) and Michael Jai White (SPAWN). We also got a few words from Campbell about next year’s EVIL DEAD RISE, a reboot of the franchise that made Campbell a cult star, and DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, the Sam Raimi-directed Marvel epic in which the actor may or may not have a role…
How did you each approach BLACK FRIDAY’s balance of horror and comedy elements?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Well, I think that was more Casey’s job than mine, but it was a matter of making sure all the actors were in the same movie, as far as tone and how pronounced everybody was. There was some stuff in the script that was very amusing, but what mostly attracted me was, I felt this was a character-based movie, not so much an effects-based or a plot-based one. That’s the cool part of it; there’s more to BLACK FRIDAY than your average horror film, and it’s more appealing to people over time when a movie has a little something else going for it.
CASEY TEBO: It’s a great question, and one of the things I tried to do was, this movie could have very easily gone the wrong way. You could have made it really ridiculous, you could have made it really over the top, but then you’re approaching SHARKNADO territory, and that’s not what I wanted to do.
CAMPBELL: I don’t think any of us wanted to make SHARKNADO!
TEBO: I had spoken to Chris Columbus early on in the process, and asked him, “What’s the best way for me to make sure this thing doesn’t go off the rails?” Because who better to take advice from than a guy like that, who wrote GREMLINS and made all those other great films? And he said, “Don’t go in telling everyone it’s a comedy, because if you tell them that’s what you’re trying to make, they’re all going to try to out-funny each other, and the movie’s just going to get ridiculous.
CAMPBELL: It’s true!
TEBO: But if you try to come at it with a sense of reality… You know, Devon’s character is kind of serious in the movie, and so is Ivana’s, and Ryan Lee’s is sort of anxiety-ridden, and it’s like Bruce said: It’s a movie about the people. If you try to go, “Hey guys, we’re all here, yuk yuk!” it’s gonna be bad, you know?
CAMPBELL: That’s the difference: Everybody played it straight. It didn’t become the POLICE ACADEMY of horror movies.
This is also one of the few horror films since DAWN OF THE DEAD to attack, or satirize, consumer culture. Was DAWN an inspiration for you?
TEBO: I would be lying if I said yes. [Campbell laughs] For me, it was more about making a movie I’d never seen before, and I had never seen this movie. DAWN OF THE DEAD seems a little more serious and on the nose, you know what I mean? This to me was just, let’s just fuckin’ have some fun, because those are the kinds of movies I want to make.
What would you say was the most challenging sequence, out of what I imagine were many?
CAMPBELL: Being outside at night in New England in December.
TEBO: Freezing our asses off!
CAMPBELL: I tell actors now, the special effects makeup guys have got things down so much better–the sculpting process, the molding process, they have better chemicals they use on your face, so those aspects have improved a lot. But nothing can change a cold, bitter-ass night of filming, because your lips freeze and you start to talk funny.
TEBO: The only other thing that was really difficult for us was because of COVID. One reason I hired David Kruta, the cinematographer, was that he has an incredible knack for working with artificial elements like smoke and things like that. If you see some of his work, it’s just beautiful the way he uses smoke and light, so it would have been advantageous to have David be able to do what he does. But we were told, “Nope, no smoke, it could carry COVID.” So we had to add some in post, and it didn’t look as good as we wanted, but we made do.
Have either of you had any memorable Black Friday experiences yourselves?
CAMPBELL: No, because I avoid that like the plague. To me, the only people who go to Black Friday are people who are really stoned or idiots. I don’t understand; I’m not going to risk bodily injury for a toy. That’s not gonna happen.
TEBO: I have one memorable Black Friday experience: I was at Thanksgiving dinner, and my brother-in-law and his wife were there, and she was getting dressed in pajamas and getting ready to go to bed at, like, 7:00. And I was like, “What are you doing?” She said, “I have to get up at 3.” “Why?” “I’m going to Target for Black Friday.” I just looked at her like, “You’re a sociopath.” [Both laugh] I was like, you’re really going to wake up at 3 a.m. to go fight people? Bruce has a great moment in the movie where he’s like, “Black Friday’s not real. They’re giving you a discount on the TV, but then you’re going to buy all the other shit at regular price, so it’s kind of a scam.”
CAMPBELL: Yeah, those are the things that I think attracted both of us to this movie.
Casey, getting back to the beginning of our talk, you said you were inspired to make this movie for your kids. Was there ever a sense of holding back on anything to make it more palatable or appropriate for a younger audience?
TEBO: No, there wasn’t. I just got a script recently that is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and there’s a way you could take that movie and cut it down and make it a PG-13, and therefore maybe it becomes this huge hit because it’s got a lot of appeal. But you look at something like DEADPOOL, they kept true to the material and made it R-rated, and it made a bazillion dollars. And when you’re talking PG-13 these days, my daughter’s 8, and she can watch most PG-13 movies. So PG-13 is really the new PG. I don’t think you want to dial anything back. This is for the hardcore fans.
There was also a mention of Marvel movies earlier; Bruce, can we expect to see you in a certain Marvel movie that’s coming out next year?
CAMPBELL: If we were having this conversation, maybe. [Both laugh] You know, with Marvel movies, they experiment with different versions a lot, so even if I was in the alleged movie, I may or may not be in the alleged completed version. I mean, if I was Benedict Cumberbatch, I’d be nervous, you know what I mean? Because these are such enormous movies, they do a lot of testing and a lot of reshoots. So who knows? If I were to have been in it, I hope I might survive the chopping block.
Is there anything you can say at this point about EVIL DEAD RISE, and how it follows up on the original movies?
CAMPBELL: Yeah, we just completed principal in Auckland, New Zealand, and we’re going into post, and [writer/director] Lee Cronin is going to be editing like a madman now, and it’ll come out sometime in 2022. There’s no follow-up here; it’s just that darn book, and that darn book gets around. It’s uncovered in an urban environment, with a single mother, so it’s a whole new ball game. It’s kind of EVIL DEAD, family style.
Do you guys have any plans to reteam on a future project?
TEBO: I don’t know how Bruce feels about it, but I do for sure!
CAMPBELL: Yeah man, let’s go! This was a good experience, and we all tried to make it entertaining on different levels, and the movie came out kind of exactly how it read on the page. It was nice to see that it didn’t read like one thing and then dashed your hopes and dreams when you saw the finished film. Casey did a good job presenting what was on the page, so yeah, let’s see what happens down the line.