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Double Date

Love really hurts in Benjamin Barfoot's directorial debut: piercing screams, broken bones, wanton bloodletting - the whole shebang. Scripted by leading man Danny Morgan, Double Date is a (severed) tongue-in-cheek horror about two best friends, who unwittingly romance a pair of murderous lovelies dubbed The Man-eaters by the tabloid press. The subsequent battle of the sexes is played for sporadic snorts of laughter, culminating in the film's tour-de-force sequence of inspired lunacy: hand-to-hand fisticuffs between actors Kelly Wenham and Michael Socha that literally brings a house down. It's the most brutal and bone-crunching display of breathless girl-on-boy action since Charlize Theron's Atomic Blonde proved the female of the species is more deadly than the male. There are flashes of first-time brilliance behind and in front of the camera including droll one-liners, a dreamy soundtrack by experimental Swedish band Goat and a cold-blooded seduction to the nostalgic strains of Yazoo's 1982 ballad, Only You. Unfortunately, Barfoot's film is plagued by inconsistency and jarring shifts in tone, and a gleefully loopy B movie finale is let down by unconvincing prosthetics. Painfully shy nice guy Jim (Morgan) is dumped by text by his girlfriend of three months. The SMS break-up condemns crestfallen Jim to celebrate his impending 30th birthday with his cherry unpopped. "We did stuff, sexy stuff... just not that," he confides to cocksure buddy Alex (Socha), who wears bravado like cheap cologne. The night before Jim bids a despondent farewell to his twenties, provocatively dressed sisters Kitty (Wenham) and Lulu (Georgia Groome) slink into the lads' favourite bar. With a few faltering prompts from Alex, Jim clumsily organises a double date with the sexy siblings. "They're just girls. What is there to be afraid of?" grins Alex as the pals hurriedly prepare for a night on the tiles in East London. Little do they know that Kitty and Lulu kill unsuspecting bedfellows as part of an occult ritual. Jim and Alex are doomed to suffer the same grim fate except Lulu takes a shine to the birthday boy, who marks special family occasions by singing with his religious parents (Robert Glenister, Rosie Cavaliero) and sister (Eri Jackson). Double Date aims for a heady cocktail of gore and giggles a la Shaun Of The Dead and comes up a little short. Morgan is an endearing leading man and he catalyses sweet on-screen chemistry with Groome, while Wenham and Socha embrace the gung-ho physicality of their roles. A protracted interlude between Alex and his oafish father (Dexter Fletcher) outstays its welcome and a trippy middle-section spiked with MDMA lacks a satisfying pay-off. However, when gags do hit their mark, they deliver big, full-throated laughs. It's a promising if uneven first salvo fashioned with love.