Directed by: Adam Weber
Written by: #AdamWeber
More often than not, first dates are the closest thing we have to a real-life horror story. However, the familiar awkward silences and failed jokes are replaced by gratuitous gore alongside cannibalism in Adam Weber’s unamusingly self-indulgent black comedy The First Date.
The film opens on an unnamed man who is waiting for the arrival of his blind date in a restaurant. Although she claims by text to be stuck in traffic, the half an hour delay begins to arouse the man’s suspicion. Upon the arrival of his food, it is revealed that the establishment serves cannibalistic cuisine much to his inevitable disgust. He then goes to investigate the kitchen wherein he discovers that the blind date was orchestrated by the restaurant’s maniacal chef who serves the unnamed woman next.
The gruesome narrative of The First Date is not one for the easily nauseous. To an extent, the shameless brevity with which Adam Weber presents the restaurant’s macabre menu must be admired. Within each frame, the sickeningly brazen depiction of human body parts within the food turns the stomach of the spectator to render the film a challenge to watch. This would not be possible without eerily realistic props and effects created by Leigh Madden and his special effects team which maximises The First Date’s gory potential. Accordingly, one senses that Weber relishes in successfully making the viewers squirm as The First Date gradually descends into a sick injoke from the film’s crew on its audience.
Yet even as The First Date is designed to be an intentionally unnerving work to watch for Weber’s amusement, the result is ultimately unenjoyable. The lack of dialogue for Chad McMartin as the nameless protagonist prevents any sense of narrative from progressing. Furthermore, his rather emotionless performance fails to capture the horror of the situation. The visceral response from the audience is therefore merely the natural reaction to the violent imagery instead of efficiently crafted terror. Concurrently, the absence of the spectator’s engagement with The First Date makes it a rather shallow film with which it is difficult to maintain one’s attention despite the short runtime.
Similar challenging black comedies such as Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s Delicatessen and Álex de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus prove that repulsive works do not inherently lose its audience. This is the fundamental problem underlying The First Date.
Whilst Adam Weber skilfully crafts a dictionary definition of the restaurant from hell, it is equally evident that he is preoccupied in exerting disgust for his own amusement. Thus, his lack of consideration for his spectators’ engagement with his work unfortunately dismantles his efforts. The result is a black comedy film wherein the only person laughing is the director.