'Double Date': Film Review | Karlovy Vary 2017

Courtesy of STIGMA FILMS
Sisters of no mercy.

A pair of sibling killers prey on sexually desperate young men in debut director Benjamin Barfoot's spoofy horror comedy.

A boorish but competently crafted debut feature from British director Benjamin Barfoot, Double Date is a horror comedy pitched at the kind of knowingly lowbrow fanboy crowd that helped give Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson and Edgar Wright their early career breaks. Technically polished, but let down by a patchy screenplay penned by its leading man Danny Morgan, Barfoot's date-from-hell bloodbath romp never quite shakes off its B-movie trappings despite a few thrillingly grisly detours into grindcore carnage.

After making its international bow at Karlovy Vary film festival earlier this month, Double Date is scheduled to screen at more genre-friendly festivals ahead of its U.K. theatrical launch in October. But in markets where its attractive young cast of rising British TV talents have less profile, distribution will be a tougher sell and small-screen premieres more likely.

Predatory sisters Kitty (Kelly Wenham) and Lulu (Georgia Groome) are big trouble, and not the good kind. Their party trick involves picking up men in London bars, taking them home on the promise of sex, then slaughtering them in a ritual sacrifice for wildly implausible reasons that only come to light in the film's final act. In truth, only the domineering Kitty seems to take genuine relish in these murder sprees, stepping in to finish the job in when younger sibling Lulu proves squeamish about killing strangers. Pleasingly, the opening orgy of slaughter is set to the bouncy 1980s electro-pop hit "Only You" by Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.), which sets the ironically flippant tone for the bloodshed to follow.

Another night, another bar. Jim (screenwriter Morgan, wringing maximum humor from his nerdy physical awkwardness) is still a virgin on the eve of turning 30. His brash, overconfident, womanizing best friend Alex (Michael Socha) is determined to finally get the hapless Jim laid, even if it means feeding him cheesy seduction lines by text like some 21st century Cyrano de Bergerac. When Kitty and Lulu prove instantly receptive to Jim's lame charm offensive, inviting both men out on a double date, the boys can scarcely believe their luck. It feels too good to be true, perhaps because it is.

A wild night on the town follows that includes drinks spiked with MDMA, a toe-curling dinner with Jim's earnest Christian family, and a bittersweet encounter with Alex's deadbeat dad (veteran Britfilm actor-director Dexter Fletcher). London rapper Big Narstie and Swedish psychedelic rockers Goat, who are credited as soundtrack composers here, also make musical cameos. But the party mood turns sour when the foursome returns to Kitty and Lulu's grand family home in the English countryside. As occult sorcery stirs dark forces in the basement, Alex and Kitty almost demolish the house in a bone-crunching death match. Meanwhile, Jim and Lulu somehow manage to form an unexpected romantic bond, even though she is officially obliged to kill him before sunrise. Awkward.

Double Date bounds along with an agreeably anarchic energy, which does not entirely excuse its stiff dialogue, labored jokes and cheap-looking prosthetics, but which does at least make these flaws more palatable. The contemporary dating-scene setting has timely bite and the looney-tunes pacing is compelling, even if the overall package is ultimately not quite original or witty enough to stand out in an market oversaturated with spoofy low-budget genre fare. While Barfoot could yet prove to be the next Sam Raimi or Edgar Wright, it is too early to judge from this raw but sporadically fun debut.

Venue: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Production Company: Stigma Films
Cast: Danny Morgan, Georgia Groome, Kelly Wenham, Michael Socha
Director, editor: Benjamin Barfoot
Screenwriter: Danny Morgan
Cinematographer: Laura Bellingham
Producers: Matthew James Wilkinson, Maggie Monteith
Music: Goat
Sales company: Film Constellation, London
90 minutes
 

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