Just released from prison after 15 years and living alone in a high capacity apartment building, Carl is anxious to finally go onto a date after a long time of solitude. Mild-mannered and quiet, he manages to strike up a date with an uncultivated young woman named Abby who takes a strange, if not alluring, interest in Carl’s humble lifestyle, but when his estranged mother, Aileen, arrives back into his life, Carl’s seemingly perfect date comes crashing down into millions of pieces and old feelings of hate and urges for substance return to a warping fold. The lust and youthfulness he feels for Abby is replaced with fear and anger as reality bends on the verge of breaking as the past and present collide to an unfathomable finale.
The first thought that pops up about director Rupert Jones’ 2016 film, “Kaleidoscope,” is to instantly relate this film to the Dutch sex wave film, Wim Verstappen’s “Blue Movie,” because of a major structural similarity that’s important to both films, is essentially an inanimate character, and is a looming presence despite the “Blue Movie” being an erotic film and “Kaleidoscope” a suspenseful psychological thriller. Both movies feature a monolithic motel-esque apartment building complex in which both house the feature character, a former inmate, and the complex becomes part of the story where as Michael in “Blue Movie” runs his pornographic business and Carl interacts with the building as an obstacle to hurdle or a contributing factor to his problem. “Kaleidoscope” marks Rupert Jones’ sophomore feature directorial and his debut as the credited writer that lightly placed notes of hinting at a Roman Polanski picture.
Toby Jones is sorely an underrated actor. The versatile supporting English actor has been underused since non-fictional performance of Truman Capote in “Infamous” that was crudely undermined by the late Seymour Hoffman’s titular role in “Capote” of nearly the same year more than a decade ago. However, Jones maintains a presence both in Hollywood and the indie circuit with the latter honing in on a film about a man with severe mother issues and Jones nails a browbeaten and tortured soul performance perfectly. The mother issues come courtesy of “Hot Fuzz’s” Anne Reid as a intrusive and sickly, yet superior matriarch to Carl’s whimpering passiveness. Reid’s somehow manages to pull off being manipulative and sweet in one single persona and bespoke the relationship between mother and son with the mixing water and oil. In the middle of Carl and his mother’s love-hate dynamic is a third person of an unequivocally different persona, making a trifecta of clashing personalties. Abby, played by Sinead Matthews (“A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life”), brings a little jovial pleasantry to a dark cerebral tale. Rounding out the cast is Karl Johnson, Joseph Kloska, and Cecilia Noble.
So how does a child’s toy factor into Carl’s descent into madness? The cylinder device creates optical illusions, usually in a colorful spectrum and mirroring pattern that refract when spun in a circular motion and looking at a light source to illuminate the effect. The experience is fantastical and Carl, browbeaten by not only the criminal system, but also by his family, uses it as a means of escape, an allegorical path of avoiding darkness in his life and a way to advert the melancholy that is his existence. Even his date with Abby is a gloomily skewed as she has ulterior motives to further push Carl to a metaphorical breaking point. Yet, he’s at peace with his assumed childhood toy in the handful of scenes he’s using it which recalls the image of his father; a joyful moment that’s ironically the sore point of most of his tribulations. The Kaleidoscope could also symbolize seamless duality as Carl has difficult establishing what’s real and grasping the hardline of time. Rupert Jones subverts linear and conventional storytelling magnificently to not only put Carl in a twisted world, but also throwing the viewer into chaos along with him.
Sparky Pictures and IFC Midnight presents Rupert Jones’ psychological asphyxiation thriller and Stigma Films production of “Kaleidoscope” onto UK region 2, PAL DVD home video. The DVD image is presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, on a DVD9 and the digital quality, like always, is a unfathomable well of picturesque with crisply defined shades of black combined with some variant lighting techniques to tell Carl’s current mood. “Kaleidoscope” touches more on the natural skin and coloring, but does use some dry yellow tinting and some visual effects to embark on the once penitentiary patron’s mental break journey. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio mix has multi-channel sensitivity utilizing all channels to jar the senses even more and to, seemingly, weaponize Mike Prestwood Smith’s chaotic score to take the state even further. Dialogue has supremacy and clarity. Bonus features includes a standard array of extras in the cast and crew commentary, trailer, photo gallery, and storyboards. “Kaleidoscope,” like in the toy’s changing patterns, shatters hope only to rejoin it back together to then shatters it again in Rupert Jones’ heated and confrontational tale of mirthless character and taxing parental abuse affecting one soul’s chances of normalcy and redemption into society even in the face of societal kickbacks.
Recently dumped and severely panicked around women, the prospect of ever dating again seems like a long shot to Jim. Self-assured Alex sees the opposite for his best mate as a golden opportunity for him to get Jim laid before his 30th birthday. When Alex finally coerces and assists Jim on scoring a double date with two sisters, Jim can’t believe his stuttering awkwardness actually proved fruitful, but little do Jim and Alex know that the sisters, Kitty and Lulu, are out for blood. The sisters seek a virgin to sacrifice to bring their long deceased father back from the dead and to complete their trio-family once again at the expense of Jim’s involuntary celibate lifestyle. Night clubs, fast cars, and visits to the parents take the four through a series of dark and drug fueled misadventures and the unexpected moment of falling love that makes this double date one to die for!
First dates are always inherently frightening. The idea of being alone with a stranger, who you’re kind of attractive to and trying to impress, yet don’t really know a single thing about them, can be daunting, if not paralyzing. First date in a double date is supposed to ease that overwhelming fear and take the strain off from the lack of possible interest in the other person, but for director Benjamin Barfoot’s amusing horror-comedy, “Double Date,” all bets are off and all tensions are on edge when dating goal sights are deadly different. Danny Morgan pens a comedic gem in which he stars as the bumbling virgin, Jim, joining his long time collaborating partner, Barfoot, to complete their first feature film together. The British made and produced film gives glimpses of London’s fung shui through the pubs, clubs, and overall eclectic nightlife to the aristocratic mansion homes to the likes of “Downton Abbey” resulting in a slight blend of the past and present into a well-oiled story embodied with terror and fun.
Funny man Danny Morgan stars as the awkward and blundering Jim whose plagued with fumbling qualities around women that usually leaves him somewhere in the inner circle of the friend zone. Morgan brilliant showcases Jim’s stunting inadequacies that eventually come to flower while maintaining a solid naturally slapstick presence of self-deprecation that turns into a full-blown bull in a china shop. The scene with his parents and himself singing his birthday song in front Lulu in audience, while tripping on drugs, is cathartically enjoyable and a riot of inner laughter. Morgan’s joined by “Being Human” actor, Michael Socha, as Jim’s very good friend, but all talk confident friend, Alex. Alex is certainly the yang to Jim’s yin on screen and off screen as Morgan and Socha have a certifiably fresh dynamic that makes them very entertaining to digest. Socha brings a different kind of comical energy that compliments Morgan’s dry humor that diversifies the content. In fact, all the characters bring a little something different to the table, such as with the sisters, Kitty and Lulu, played respectively by Kelly Wenham (“Dracula: The Dark Prince”) and Georgia Groome (“The Cottage”). Training like an elite athlete, Wenham takes the role to heart being a dark and beautiful villain that’s inarguably alluring as she’s cold and deadly. The Cheshire born actress, whom hands down can be the next Megan Fox, sinks her teeth into the performance and excels in the physical role that’s showcases her range of talent. Then, there’s Georgie Groome as Lulu, the timid opposite of Kitty. Also known as the girlfriend of Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint, she nails being the one in the shadows, relinquishing control mostly to Wenham for most of the film, and then slowly build character confidence and strength.
“Double Date” is a great blend of horror and comedy. The climax has this satirical and retro quality about that seems unfitting, but is stitched carefully to fit without bursting and popping a seam (or scene?) to the point of overly obtrusive. Benjamin Barfoot also has a keen eye to capture the pivotal and incandescent moments that make scenarios have more an impact, whether that being a facial expression, an awkward dance, or any kind of verbal or action exchange between characters. Doesn’t hurt that Barfoot’s rapport with Danny Morgan is a relationship riding the same director-actor level plane, similar to the dynamics between Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, with a synonymous cerebral synergy that clicks well for the silver screen.
From the independent film company who delivered “The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot,” Sparky Pictures releases the Screen International/FrighFest awarding winning horror-comedy, “Double Date”, onto digital, DVD, and Blu-ray come September 9th in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, an in-depth review of the video and audio specifications will not be covered as a BD screener disc was provided, but what can be said about the soundtrack, performed by GOAT, is pure primitive gold and the appearance by Big Narstie is equally solid. Bonus material, on this check disc, included an extensive behind-the-scenes, from conception to wrap, of Danny Morgan and Benjamin Barfoot’s roller-coasting adventure on getting their film made. There’s also a commentary with cast and crew, deleted scenes, photo gallery, and trailers. “Double Date” is a true black comedy and a whole lot of fun that should skyrocket filmmakers Danny Morgan and Benjamin Barfoot toward future endeavors as a rising, powerhouse duo, contending to be the next hit in the satirical category.