Director: Benjamin Barfoot
Writer: Danny Morgan
Producer: Matthew James Wilkinson, Maggie Monteith
Stars: Danny Morgan, Georgia Groome, Kelly Wenham, Michael Socha, Liz Kingsman, Dexter Fletcher
Two bumbling buddies court a pair of seductive sisters who secretly want to murder men as part of an occult ritual.
The filmmakers introduced “Double Date” at its Screamfest premiere as a “silly, nasty little comedy/horror film.” They also expressed half-joking hope that the audience was drunk, recommending that “two or three drinks is the perfect amount” to enjoy their movie.
I mentally mouthed “oh sh*t,” having translated their words to mean their film would be obnoxiously juvenile, offensively outrageous, and amateurishly produced. My prejudicial fears were partly correct. “Double Date” is those three things, except with different “-ly” adverbs in front.
Yes, “Double Date” has the spark of a raunchy 1980s sex comedy often aiming at lowbrow comedic appeal. But as its honest humor and bloody horror continued intermingling, I found myself won over by the flick’s surprising surplus of heartfelt charm and astonishingly sharp style for a low-budget indie.
Perpetually pouty virgin Jim has such bad luck with women, he can’t even escort a drunken widow home safely without cops arresting him on suspicion of sexual assault. Ever the inappropriate wingman, Jim’s wannabe alpha pal Alex is anxious to get the poor virgin laid before his upcoming 30th birthday. As if on cue, into the pub struts seductive siren Kitty and her equally attractive sister Lulu who, wouldn’t you know it, both have their slow motion sights set squarely on Jim.
Jim can’t believe it. His Philip Seymour Hoffman-ish appearance usually only attracts insults like “ginger,” “fatty,” or “ginger fatty.” Even more unbelievably, these girls want a double date with the duo, despite a fumbling Cyrano de iPhone setup where Alex’s typos and autocorrected texts put unfortunate pickup lines in Jim’s mouth.
The foursome’s unusually awkward night out in London becomes a case of conflicting ulterior motives. Alex’s determination to wet Jim’s whistle while technically still in his 20s keeps their eyes on a sexual prize. The girls meanwhile, are up against a deadline of a different sort.
See, there’s a decaying corpse in the sisters’ basement, and the black magic ritual for its resurrection requires spilling significant amounts of unwilling blood. Best-laid plans for satanic summonings hit a snag however, when Lulu finds herself succumbing to Jim’s well-meaning goofiness. That’s just the start of the strangeness taking everyone’s double date from delightfully daffy to dangerously devilish.
When Jim receives a penknife as a birthday gift, it practically comes with a bright neon sign buzzing, “remember me for later!” In other words, you’ll never need a crystal ball or tea leaves to see where this story is headed at all times. Even the character types are recognized right away. But little of that matters because charismatic casting and snappy scripting save stereotyping and predictability from crushing the film under clichés.
Taking place in a skewed world of silliness and slaughter, “Double Date” doesn’t have an overtly offbeat setting a la “Shaun of the Dead” or something similar. Nevertheless, its sense of humor is always evident, just not with any urgency to be blusteringly boisterous. Putting it another way, “Double Date” is consistently comical without being cartoonish, which goes a long way toward helping its horror hit.
“Double Date’s” occult undertones are darkly eerie when they come out to play in full force for the finale. Not only do sinister scenes fulfill the creep quotient, but a brutal fight rivaling “They Live” in terms of sheer knock down, drag out preposterousness is an action-heavy highlight emerging as one of the movie’s most memorable, and longest, moments.
“Double Date” isn’t the wokest film of 2017. The movie makes likable losers out of sex-crazed men who would drug a woman’s drink to get what they want. They don’t get away with it, yet such intentions put black marks on the protagonist scorecard as far as how rah-rah we can be about seeing them succeed.
Sometimes the movie makes fun of men being miscreants when sex is involved. Sometimes the movie doesn’t seem to notice they are doing it at all. At the post-Screamfest screening Q&A, a woman good-humouredly lamented how the movie ends without Jim losing his virginity. Writer/star Danny Morgan surprisingly revealed that every time he gets the question, “why doesn’t Jim get laid?” it always comes from a woman. Take that for meaning maybe misogyny is misperceived and “Double Date” is more harmless than I give it credit for.
Morgan’s script is sincere, which is precisely why the film remains enjoyably fun in spite of sometimes misfired material. As sappy as it sounds, Jim’s true goal isn’t sex, but learning to pace his life without regard for another person’s perception. He’s just going to have to face death, dismemberment, and the living dead to figure this out for himself.
“Double Date” also has to face a bongo-crazy soundtrack whose rhythms aren’t always right, “who are you?” secondary characters of irrelevant importance (specifically Laura), and an occasional excess of unimportant/unfunny scenes pausing momentum to get to the good stuff. Fortunately, “Double Date” has plenty of good stuff. Director Benjamin Barfoot and his entire cast and crew have no clearer motive than to entertain a crowd, and they do so with a small yet inspired movie packed full of humor, horror, and even heart.
Review Score: 80