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2012 | 88 min | 2.39:1



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Movie appeal

Dark humor100%


Theatrical release date

 10 May, 2013
 30 November, 2012

Country of origin

 United Kingdom

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Screenshots from Sightseers Blu-ray

Sightseers Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 9, 2013

With “Down Terrace” and “Kill List,” director Ben Wheatley was striving for more of a severe atmosphere of family dysfunction and the dark unknown, creating interesting but indulgent cinema that fell short of its initial promise. “Sightseers” takes Wheatley in a distinctly broad direction, creating a pitch-black comedy that’s uproarious when it isn’t completely horrifying. It’s shocking in all the good ways, supported by two fantastic performances from Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who capture the elusive feel of cheery malevolence early on the feature, helping to sell Wheatley’s casual atmosphere of whiplash temper down to the last gasp. “Sightseers” is a legitimate doozy.

Infantilized by Carol (Eileen Davies), her elderly mother, thirtysomething Tina (Alice Lowe) is looking to shake up her lonely life, finding love with Chris (Steve Oram), an oafish man seemingly excited to have found a potential mate. With the two off on a holiday around the U.K. towing a caravan, Tina and Chris begin to investigate their attraction, attempting to bond while visiting kitschy museums and roadside attractions, also exploring their sex life inside their mobile home during this “erotic odyssey.” Showing extreme frustration with a disrespectful tourist during their first stop, Chris decides to kill the offender, brushing off the incident as an accident. Enlivened by the murder, Chris elects to add a body count to the trip, soon joined by Tina and her willingness to justify homicide for the man she adores. Picking off loudmouths and know-it-alls, the pair finds their own relationship tested when Chris grows tired of Tina, indulging himself with other partners out of habit.

“Sightseers” opens with a warning from Carol to her daughter about Chris’s troubled demeanor, and it grows progressively more insane from there. While his previous pictures flirted with comedy, Wheatley turns his latest work into a Monty Python-esque collection of horrors chased with silliness, giving equal screen time to shocks and giggles as the couple makes their way around the country, murdering those they deem offensive. It’s not just louts and losers marked for death; it’s a list that also includes a journalist who pesters Tina to clean up after her dog, a rowdy bachelorette party who bring Chris into the celebration, and fellow travelers who show unease around the couple and their blunt, dim manner. It’s a serial killer story unfolding in a most unusual way, generating an affability about the pair before their deepest, darkest impulses are exposed, watching Wheatley masterfully balance graphic violence (the killings and bashings are vividly gory) with pint-clutching geniality as the pair bond over bloodshed. Of course, this fizzy feeling with two miscreants is only realized in the moments before Chris’s monstrous side is uncovered.

It seems Tina’s Prince Charming is a bit of a psychopath, using his lady’s gullibility to engage in all sorts of destructive behavior while charming a few fellow travelers with his affable exterior -- a test of sociability that keeps a few out of the couple’s crosshairs, including a bicyclist (Jonathan Aris) carrying a coffin-like caravan that intrigues Chris and his love for mobile homes. “Sightseers” is largely improvised, but shades of inhumanity are gracefully explored by Oram, while Lowe plays gullibility with tremendous skill, building Tina into a bloodthirsty equal to Chris as the story unfolds, though she imagines the pair as “green killers,” helping to erase carbon footprints. There’s also a touch of grief mixed into the madness as Tina longs for the dog she lost in a horrible knitting needle accident, stealing a victim’s canine companion as a way to make up for the mistake, assuming the spirit of her doomed pal has passed on to the new four-legged discovery. Again, Lowe is superb with pronounced sweeps of sheltered wisdom while preserving a certain bloom of awareness about Tina, who’s slowly coming around to the reality that her man is poison. The lead actors are extraordinary with their timing and throttling of exaggeration, easing Wheatley’s burden of tone as the performances hit exact notes of macabre activity and everyday joviality.

“Sightseers” is a dark comedy with a gonzo attitude, requiring a certain moviegoing mood to plug into Wheatley’s escalating feel for crooked tension. Pop hits fill the soundtrack and the locations, albeit slicked with rain most of the time, are gorgeous, yet the real treat here is the film’s bonkers attitude, subdued some by its English origins. Instead of trying to slip under the skin of his audience with unresponsive material, Wheatley takes the opposite approach, achieving exquisite levels of insanity as he details a particularly demonic tour around the countryside. It’s nice to finally feel a rush of excitement after viewing a Ben Wheatley effort.

Starring: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies, Jonathan Aris, Tony Way
Director: Ben Wheatley

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