Double Date at EIFF: ‘riotously funny and permeated by sinister menace’
Often, horror-comedies can be a little bit meh – that is, neither particularly funny nor particularly scary. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods both aim squarely for comedy and are direct hits, but the horror content is mostly apparent by its absence. In Double Date, Benjamin Barfoot and Danny Morgan aim to correct this with a movie that’s both riotously funny and permeated by a thick vain of sinister menace. I am pleased to report that they have succeeded. Double Date is a blast: a rollicking, side-splitting, bloody-as-hell rollercoaster ride into occult madness. And it even has an ass-kicking score to boot.
Morgan himself stars as Jim – a socially inept 29 year old who is yet to lose his virginity (not for lack of trying – he’s even on a dating site specifically for virgins). On the eve of his 30th birthday, with the help of best friend Alex, he resolves to solve this issue once and for all after running into a couple of stunning women (played by Kelly Wenham and Georgia Groome) who seem willing to take up the challenge. Unfortunately for them, Lulu and Emily are anything but game… To say anything else would spoil the surprises in store, but it’s fair to say that there are a few of those.
Fans of gore will also be exceptionally pleased with this one – which has enough practical nastiness in an hour and a half for at least three films. From a brutally extended fight sequence (that’s also really damn funny) to a final battle that’s in equal parts startlingly original and primally satisfying, there’s a lot of messy fun to be had. Don’t worry if you’re not into that kinda stuff; Barfoot and Morgan are never sadistic with their impulses – just pulpy.
Barfoot really seems to be going for a 70s/80s vibe: the lighting is distinctly anaglyph (cinema slushy blue/red, with a touch of toxic green for good measure); and there’s a lot of off-kilter Argento angles going on – comparisons to Suspiria are inevitable. The soundtrack is equally impressive: the team have managed to get psychedelic Swedes Goat on board to craft what turns out to be an incredibly catchy and intriguing theme tune – first heard in the grindhouse-channeling title sequence (complete with projector shake) – and later played in a nightclub by the band themselves. Big Narstie also comes along at some point to perform, and be the butt of a joke (“He’s a bit nasty, isn’t he?”). These unreal, tribal melodies really help to accentuate the macabre weirdness on show here – and conjures feelings of the unknown that permeate most of the second half.
From an acting standpoint, Danny Morgan and Michael Socha have instant chemistry on set – it seems naturalistic that Jim and Alex are old friends who’ve known each other for years. The way in which the film revolves around a single night in linear fashion really benefits from this believability: it feels as if we, as the viewers, are going on a night out with these characters and are experiencing everything they are in tandem. This comes to a hilarious front in a drug-addled scene with a very Christian family.
The comedy is truly fantastic – a tired and drunk audience at a late night screening absolutely lapped it up: at one point I ended up laughing so hard that I headbutted the seat in front of me from the convulsions; and at another the theatre spontaneously burst into applause at the comic talent. On the horror front, Double Date plays its cards close to its chest – maintaining a sinister and ambiguous tone until it’s final scenes. It’s not exactly ‘scary’ (although there are a fair few jump-scares to be found), but it lacks the lightness of, say, Shaun of the Dead.
In its entirety, Double Date is nothing but a resounding success. It takes the horror-comedy concept to an authentic feeling giallo picture, then lumps in a whole host of hilarious jokes and a first-class soundtrack. It’s masterfully structured, masterfully filmed, endlessly entertaining; and I can’t fault it whatsoever. It may be the first feature film for both Danny Morgan and Benjamin Barfoot, but it’s an effective calling card that’s sure to open up many doors in the future.
Without a doubt, the funniest horror film I have ever seen.
Featured image: ScreenDaily.