By Nathan Peterson
Starring: Steve Oram, Alice Lowe
Directed: Ben Wheatley
Remember when Oliver Stone released Natural Born Killers, and we all sat there and said “Man this is good, but you know what would be better? Making it a dark comedy and setting it in the UK Midlands?” No? Was that just me?! Regardless, my/our Christmas has come early as Sightseers is pretty much just that.
Last year Ben Wheatley unleashed Kill List upon us, and whilst I thought some elements of it were well conceived, the end product left me a little disappointed. When I was given the opportunity to watch an advance preview of his follow-up, Sightseers, I naturally entered the screening room with some apprehension.
Whilst Wheatley’s earlier film was a dark and uncompromising thriller/horror/drama following two killers, Sightseers is a dark and uncompromising comedy about two killers. Just like chalk and cheese, or graphite and pasta (that may make sense to people who have seen the film).
Sightseers followers Chris (Oram) and Tina (Lowe), a newly formed couple as they set out on their first holiday together, taking a tour of some of the more exciting attractions in the UK, such as Crich Tramway Museum and Keswick Pencil Museum. At first, the couple seem like typical Little Britons, a little naive, dull and sheltered, but it soon turns out that they have a well hidden darkness.
As I mention above, Kill List was not a film I particularly enjoyed, but one thing I did respect about it was the dialogue. Every line from every character felt very real, compared to some films where the exchanges don’t appear to be like any conversation I have ever heard. Sightseers has the same trait, with not an ounce of fat on any of the dialogue.
Written exceptionally by Oram and Lowe themselves, they also put in outstanding performances as the murderous pair. Lowe’s naive Tina plays off perfectly against Oram’s Chris, who wants to show her “his world”. There is something quite beautiful about his misguided pride for the things he loves, and how blindly she follows him, even when things turn sour. They are a couple that you almost root for, even though they commit some horrific acts along the way.
Special mention also to Eileen Davies, who plays Tina’s unforgiving mother. The opening 10 minutes as she openly shows her disapproval of both Chris and the plan to go on holiday, provides some outstanding moments of awkwardness, unmatched in recent times.
Another thing that Wheatley should be commended for is his direction. Not only does he set up all the comedic moments perfectly, but his use of light and darkness makes this one of the more visually stunning indie comedies around. If nothing else, it is nice to see the rolling hills of the English countryside showcased so well. It almost makes me wish to take the Sightseers tour!
As I have mentioned above, the comedy is dark. This is definitely not a film for the faint hearted, whether it is the subject matter or the language, both of which hold nothing back.
For me, 2012 has not been a particularly stellar year for comedy, and as such, Sightseers is a welcome addition. In a stronger year, perhaps it would have been lost amongst the crowd, but luckily without much competition, it should shine for the beacon it is. Filled with LOL moments (or laugh out loud if you are old schooling it), interspersed with beautiful scenery and gruesome murders, it is a film that should be seen. Whether it translates well to a foreign market is debatable, as this is a quintessentially British film, but I do hope that it receives the praise it deserves.