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DOUBLE DATE ****

Directed by: Benjamin Barfoot. Starring: Danny Morgan, Michael Socha, Georgia Groome, Kelly Wenham. Comedy, Horror, UK 2017, 89mins, Cert 15.

Released on digital, DVD and Blu-Ray on 9th September by Sparky Pictures.

 

"They're just girls, man. What's there to be afraid of?"

 

Jack-the-lad Alex (Michael Socha) is determined to ensure his best-friend Jim (Danny Morgan) gets laid and finally loses his virginity before his imminent 30th birthday. A seemingly chance encounter with two attractive sisters in a bar feels too good to be true for unlucky in love, Jim. However, spurred on by his insistent wingman, Jim and Michael invite confident Kitty (Kelly Wenham) and her more reticent sibling Lulu (Georgia Groome) out on a double date. Jim's instincts prove correct when the lads find out their respective dates' true intentions...

 

I feel I owe director Benjamin Barfoot and writer/co-star Danny Morgan an apology for having stood up their first feature film several times to date. Firstly I missed its hugely successful premiere at FrightFest, then, having recorded it from Sky Movies, it was inadvertently deleted before viewing along with a whole raft of other titles in what our household refers to as the great TiVo purge of 2019. And to top it all, I even managed to miss the special screening and Q&A at the Prince Charles cinema on 5th September.

 

However, I'm pleased to report that I've finally managed to catch DOUBLE DATE in advance of its release on digital and physical media from 9th September.

 

For a first-time feature, it hits the ground running straight from the off with a brutally effective opening sequence which leaves you in no doubt as to the peril Alex and Jim will unwittingly set themselves up for on their double date. Kelly Wenham's stabby kick-boxing Kitty equips herself persuasively as the fierce femme fatale who choreographs her sacrificial carve-ups to Yazoo's 'Only You'. Georgia Groome's Lulu, on the other hand, is altogether more reluctant to get her hands dirty – even if she shares her badass sister's ultimate wish for patriarch resurrection.

 

There's some broad laddish comedy at play here. Most of it is orchestrated by Michael Socha's cocky Alex. But Socha (and writer Morgan) infuses his character with a sprinkling of vulnerability and likeability – the type of role Socha excels at – and the relationship between Alex and sympathetic Jim is amusingly touching. A couple of scenes standout here, firstly when Alex, in full-on Cyrano de Bergerac mode, texts Jim mistyped chat-up lines to use on the sisters. And there's a lovely gender-reversing romcom sequence where Alex advises panicky Jim on a suitable outfit for their date. He even checks his breath and makes sure he's got condoms. Director Barfoot intercuts this with Kitty and Lulu's clinically methodical preparations of their essential items: syringe, chloroform, and knife.

 

An excruciatingly embarrassing detour to Jim's happy-clappy Christian family provides toe-curling amusement, while Alex's background is sketched out by a visit to his divorcé dad (Dexter Fletcher) in his squalid caravan.

 

The third act takes a pleasingly barmy left-field lurch into TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE territory when this largely hitherto comedy/horror firmly shifts gears into bloody confrontation. The raison d 'être for the sisters' murderous endeavours is treated with a blithely sketchiness but overall this confident, pacily assured debut feature more often than not pulls off that tricky tonal comedy/horror balancing double act.

 

Paul Worts.

 

 

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