It’s difficult when watching any British horror comedy not to be drawn into comparisons with Edgar Wright’s standout Shaun of Dead. And Double Date is another film that struggles to escape the shadow of that modern classic. The fine line Wright walked between making the audience shriek, laugh or cry is too often stumbled over by director Benjamin Barfoot.
After Jim’s (Danny Morgan) girlfriend dumps him, his cocksure best friend Alex (Michael Socha) is determined to get his mate laid before his impending 30th birthday. So, when Kitty (Kelly Wenham) and Lula (Georgia Groome) wander into their local bar up for a party, Alex leaps at the opportunity. Their double date soon takes a turn as Kitty and Lulu‘s willingness turns out to be too good to be true (because of course, it does).
One misstep Barfoot makes from the get-go is opening the film with a sequence of the two young women having their way with another pair of hapless men. Before we even properly meet them, we know what Kitty and Lulu are capable of. That removes much of the tension and just leaves the question of why they’re doing what they’re doing, but even that is pretty much answered before the first act is up. The film is lacking in surprises from then on. This choice does facilitate a parallel structure that allows the film to follow both the men and the women while they’re preparing for the evening. Condoms for the guys, chloroform for the girls: it’s a funny little moment, but is it worth the film blowing its load for?
Barfoot also follows Wright’s lead and goes big for a crazy final act. This is an example of one of the tightropes Wright has so impressively walked throughout his career. One over-the-top moment too far and viewers will tune out: which is exactly what happens here. There’s a mano-a-womano brawl that goes from brutal to ridiculous after about a dozen punches, and then continues well beyond that. This (narrative) beat-to-beat pacing problem may stem from the fact that Morgan also wrote the script. I can only imagine acting out one’s own script doesn’t encourage the most incisive eye for editing and finessing the words on the page.
By dropping the bombshell right from the cold open, Barfoot and Morgan can find their tone (far more jokey than scary) and stick to it, but it does make for a one-note viewing experience. There are some good gags (particularly courtesy of Socha), but it is often obvious, broad humour, as opposed to anything particularly cineliterate or genre-savvy.