At the Movies - Sightseers - review

Steve Oram (left) and Alice Lowe in Ben Wheatley's 'Sightseers'.
Steve Oram (left) and Alice Lowe in Ben Wheatley's 'Sightseers'.

There’s no director quite like Ben Wheatley.

Wheatley’s filmography is only three movies old but already he has delivered two of the most unique films to be screened in British cinema for the last ten years.

Sightseers, Piazza Grande, Ben Wheatley director

Sightseers, Piazza Grande, Ben Wheatley director

Wheatley’s first film, ‘Down Terrace’ was released in 2009. The film follows the life of a gangster released from prison who proceeds to unmask the ‘mole’ from within his own criminal organisation.

‘Down Terrace’ was a remarkable debut for Wheatley and it even went on win the Raindance Award at the British Independent Film Awards 2009.

The fact that ‘Down Terrace’ was filmed over eight days makes the film all the more impressive and showed just how talented a director Wheatley was.

Wheatley wrote and directed his next film ‘Kill List’ in 2011. It was a film that started out about two hit-man carrying out one last job but it descended into the most British of British horror movies.

‘Sightseers’ is Wheatley’s latest offering and if you’re a fan of ‘Down Terrace’ and ‘Kill List’ it will not disappoint.

Tina (Alice Lowe - ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’) is in her mid-thirties and lives at home with her mother Carol, (Eileen Davies - ‘The Bill’ and ‘Pulse’).

Tina’s mum is a total narcissist and when she hears that her daughter is going on holidays with her boyfriend of three months she sets out to sabotage the trip.

Tina’s new boyfriend is Chris (Steve Oram - ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’ and ‘Kill List’).

Chris presents himself as an aspiring writer when in actual fact he is an unemployed factory worker.

Chris and Tina set out in a caravan on a tour of the north of England.

Chris’s grasp on reality is non-existent and when rubbed up the wrong way, thinks nothing of killing complete strangers.

In the first instance, Tina is repelled by her boyfriend’s action but Chris’s penchant for violence is contagious and it’s not before long that Tina finds herself being tempted to carry out similar heinous murders.

As the couple’s week travelling of around the north of England develops from the horrific to the downright putrid a disastrous conclusion appears inevitable.

Oram and Lowe are outstanding as Chris and Tina. Two such characters would have been totally implausible before watching ‘Sightseers’ but after the film’s first half hour they become utterly believable.

It’s fair to say that ‘Sightseers’ is no where near as ambiguous or as baffling as ‘Kill List’ but it’s not supposed to be.

‘Kill List’ may have confused but ‘Sightseers’ is laugh out loud funny.

The ways in which Chris dispatches of some of his victims are as gory and as sanguine as any to be witnessed in cinema this year but they are great examples of Wheatley’s imagination manifesting itself.

‘Sightseers’ is certainly one of British cinema’s most original and unique films of the year.

It will certainly divide opinion. It’s gore will not be to everyone’s fancy but watching Chris and Tina’s anger go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye is nothing short of comedy genius.

The juxtaposition of Chris and Tina’s grizzly actions to the backdrop of the beautiful natural countryside in the north of England make the gore and the violence palatable.

Chris is at ease in the countryside but his inclination for murder comes to the fore when he is confronted by the irksome actions of society.

Chris and Tina are an lonely couple who are intent on familiarising themselves with the ordinary exchanges of ordinary couples.

In one scene, set in a restaurant; the couple are sharing a romantic dinner. Tina whispers to Chris that she’s not wearing any knickers but it loses all impact when she follows it up by saying that she’s wearing tights.

Chris and Tina are incapable of embracing the normal and watching them attempt to do so makes ‘Sightseers’ all the more funny.

It’s a decent third movie from Wheatley and should he continue to produce such original and wonderfully crafted films then a Hollywood will most certainly come a knocking. A British Guillermo Del Toro anyone?

VERDICT: 4/5 - Ben Wheatley is one of the most promising young British directors around. ‘Sightseers’ is a hilarious look at an ill-fated couple, Chris and Tina, and it documents their caravan tour around the north of England. Alice Lowe and Steve Oram are on top form and movie’s script and setting are triumphs. A wonderful British gore fest.