Ben Wheatley is very much the standard bearer of new British directors. Having made a stir with his award winning films, Down Terrace and Kill List, Wheatley has successfully managed to make some deliciously black comedy moments in these films, but with Sightseers the comedy is front and centre and as black as it comes.
The film follows Tina and Chris, a pair of lovers who set out upon a caravan tour of Britain’s finer side think Keswick Pencil Museum and Crich Tramway Museum and you’ll have a good idea of what Chris and Tina are like. However, after an accident involving a fellow tourist their holiday takes a darker turn.
Written by stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who play the leads, Tina and Chris, respectively Sightseers is black comedy gold. It’s League of Gentleman meets Terrence Malick’s Badlands. It is no surprise that both Lowe and Oram are veterans of the UK comedy circuit, as the script is filled with some fantastic one liners, not only from the protagonists but also Tina’s mother Carol, who steals every scene she is in with her sour, lonely mother routine.
Wheatley does a fantastic job directing, wandering in similar territory to his debut film Down Terrace. Wheatley contrasts the violent rampage against the picturesque British countryside brilliantly. At times the film relies far too heavily on slow motion, which can start to get slightly distracting but you cannot help getting caught up in it all.
Lowe and Oram bring the two protagonists to life wonderfully, a pair of nerdy lovers. Chris just wants to be feared and respected. At times Chris, despite his anorak tendencies, feels like the everyman pushed to his limits. He’s almost like Michael Douglas in Falling Down but with a superior knowledge of caravans. Having lost his job six months ago he’s slowly been taking out his pent up anger on unsuspecting victims. Tina plays a mollycoddled 30 something who has spent far too much time with her possessive mother. Once Chris awakens her both sexually and violently, she gets a taste for it and as the soundtrack and Chris’ dreams tell us, becomes a bit of a witch.
The victims of Tina and Chris’ countryside killing spree are all familiar stereotypes: the loutish litterer, the Daily Mail’ reader National trust snob, and the drunken bride to be on her hen night. These are people that at some stage or another we have all had qualms with. But Lowe and Oram take those feeling to the black comedy extreme. The death scenes themselves in the film are particularly brutal and there’s no holding back on the sound effects and gore.
The extras on the disc are fairly basic. There’s an extensive behind-the-scenes piece. Featuring interviews with cast and crew it’s a great insight into how the film was brought to life by Wheatley, Oram and Lowe. Accompanying this are outtakes and two trailers. It would have been great to see a directors commentary with Wheatley, Oram and Lowe on the disc, along with a possible Q&A considering how positive the film was received on its release. It’s a shame that the Blu ray isn’t packed full of extras, but the film is great enough on its own and has definite re-watchability.
A deliciously dark black comedy and another fine venture from Wheatley. Everything great about British comedy is on full display within this film, highly recommended.
Reviewer: Gareth Haworth