Ben Wheatley’s previous film, the acclaimed ‘Kill List’, began appearing to be a British domestic drama before slowly becoming more and more disturbing and uncomfortable as it progressed, emerging as a true horror film. His new film, ‘Sightseers’, begins in a similar manner, with one half of our central couple being chastised by her mother, who doesn’t like her new boyfriend who she’s about to embark on a camping trip with. However, not long after our main characters set off, ‘Sightseers’ begins to reveal its nature too, but this time, it’s of a much more comic, albeit dark, one.
Tina and Chris (played by screenwriters Alice Lowe and Steve Oram) are the couple in question, setting off on a caravan holiday in the North of England, planning to take in some of its notably quaint tourist attractions, such as a pencil museum. Outwardly, they appear to be a very boring couple. At the first sight they visit, a Tramline museum, a fellow patron’s littering gets to Chris, who politely requests the gentlemen pick it back up. He doesn’t, and not long after gets run over in an apparent accident.
Chris’s homicidal nature comes to the forefront as their journey continues, with him murdering anyone who rubs him up the wrong way. Tina doesn’t know what to make of him at first but becomes increasingly compliant.
Since ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ the murderous lovers-on-the-run thing has been done plenty of times, but ‘Sightseers’ does find new ground to tread, literally. Its lesser-seen English rural locations give it a charm and uniqueness a California setting could never offer, and its style, and humour, are very British.
Like ‘Kill List’ never went for big jump scares, ‘Sightseers’ doesn’t go for big belly laughs, but a lot of humour is derived from the naturalistic banter, and resulting discomfort, between its characters. At one point Chris comes to realise that his homicidal activities are environmentally friendly as he’s reducing his victim’s carbon footprints.
Ben Wheatley juggles the uneasy tone carefully, unafraid to make the kills very bloody but also lovingly overlaying a few 80s pop songs to key moments for good measure.
Perhaps ‘Sightseers’ best achievement though, is introducing the ‘carapod’ to the world. This absurd invention is a translucent mini tent on wheels that attaches to the back of a bicycle. The arrival of this ‘alien coffin’, and its proud creator marks the beginning of the end for Chris and Tina. Their story is a limited one though, and ‘Sightseers’ manages to wrap up proceedings just as its running out of places to go.