Sightseers * * * *

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Director: Ben Wheatley.
Screenplay: Steve Oram, Alice Lowe.
Starring: Steve Oram, Alice Lowe, Eileen Davies, Richard Glover, Monica Dolan, Jonathan Aris, Richard Lumsden, Tony Way, Rachel Austin, Gareth Jones.

After the dark crime thriller “Kill List” in 2011, writer/director Ben Wheatley has decided on a slightly lighter approach for his follow-up. Just ‘slightly’ mind you, as the premise of this tale is equally as dark and deranged. However, it does contain a lot of humour and will most likely remain one of the blackest comedies all year. It’s also confirmation that Wheatley is definitely a talent to watch.

After accidentally killing her mother’s beloved dog with a knitting needle Tina (Alice Lowe), makes a decision to leave her domineering mother and go on a caravan holiday with her new boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram). What Tina doesn’t know is that Chris has a penchant for killing people who upset him. Tina soon becomes influenced by him and as they tour the English countryside, they leaves bodies in their wake at the camp sites, museums and tourist destinations that they visit.

After a brief introduction to our travelling odd-couple, Wheatley gets down to his turgid roadtrip where all manner of darkness ensues. Despite the, blacker-than-black, nature of the story he infuses it with a deadpan humour that counterbalances the events, disturbed behaviour and thought processes of the characters. After casually and callously despatching of unsuspecting, innocent victims our couple share their thoughts and warped sense of justification; at one point over dinner Tina suggests that “by reducing their life span you’re reducing their omissions“, to which Chris responds “so what you mean is… murder is green? I never thought of it like that“. Tina is also a character who likes to have intercourse while sticking her face in a bowl of pot-pourri and wearing hand-knitted, crotchless lingerie. These are just a couple of examples of their deluded outlook and off-the-wall behaviour. Believe me, there are plenty more on their travels. What aids the film immeasurably is the two superb central performances from Steve Oram and Alice Lowe who also happen to have written the screenplay. While playing out their own characters, it shows that they fully understand the material and what’s required to make them three dimensional. Meanwhile, Wheatley handles the extreme shifts in tone with absolute ease. There are some genuinely, hilarious moments that are coupled with a very twisted nature. For a film to have you laughing at it’s darkness, is a testament to all involved here. Black comedies don’t come much darker than this.

Having proved beforehand with “Kill List” that he could craft a sense of realism imbued with absolute horror. This time, Ben Wheatley shows excellent skill in balancing humour with an altogether different kind of horror and lunacy. It has been compared to the likes of “Natural Born Killers” and Mike Leigh’s “Nuts In May” but I’d refer to this thoroughly rewarding little treat, as “Badlands” in the Midlands.

Mark Walker

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54 Responses to “Sightseers * * * *”

  1. Excellent post, will certainly try and see this.

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  2. Wow, this flick sounds pretty wild. It’s one I haven’t heard of. Did it come out this year?

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  3. Great review Mark. Been itching to see this but haven’t got round to it yet. It looks just my kind of humour and I’ve liked Alice Lowe in other stuff I’ve seen her in.

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    • If you’re looking forward to it Chris then there’s a good chance it won’t disappoint. I fancied it as well and loved it. I was a fan of Kill List but I’d say this is slightly better. Not too familiar with Alice Lowe but she and Steve Oram are brilliant here.

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  4. Nice review. I haven’t heard of this movie before but I love Badlands and Natural Born Killers. I’ll have to check it out.

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    • Cheers man! In fairness it’s only likened to Natural Born killers and Badlands due to the killing spree that the characters go on. It’s more of a comedy. With very black humour.

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  5. Sounds like my kind of film. I’m a bit of a connoisseur of black comedies. One of the trickiest genres to pull off but when they’re well done they’re some of my favorite films. Dr. Strangelove, Network, Harold and Maude, Fargo, Brazil, American Psycho, Heathers, Welcome to the Dollhouse. I’ll be looking for this one even though I didn’t make it all the way through The Kill List . One of my favorite black comedies is the Danis Tanoviฤ‡ Academy Award winning film No Man’s Land. It’s been called a farce, a satire, a tragicomedy and absurdist but to me it’s a straight up black comedy only it leaves you with a gut punch at the end that you don’t find in other films of this ilk. It’s a modern day Catch 22… well modern for the 90’s anyway. Seen it Mark?

    Ever looking looking for something dark and hilarious… I’m your man.

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  6. This sounds right up my alley – now I kind of can’t wait to see this…..!

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  7. I never knew that it was about that! I’ve got to see this now. Thanks for the great review, Mark!

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  8. Wheatley needed a good follow up to Kill list to confirm his credentials, from what I here he’s done it. waiting on this from lovefilm, you know I lurve Kill list. good review Mark!

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  9. ray brayne Says:

    This and “Kill List” go way beyond mere gothic. Both films invoke ancient spirits that roam the land. There are plenty of references, from the human sacrifice ritual in “Kill List”, to the rock formations and standing stones of “Sightseers”, Wheatley gives off a Druid age vibe. He returns us to a time before the rule of man to a time of primeval urges. Where does it come from? In Sightseers, the more they travel the land, the more infected with deadly passions Tina becomes. By the end she’s no longer making excuses for what’s happened she has changed her being.
    I quite liked both films. They left me with a lot of thoughts and questions. I’ve visited Stonehenge, I know what a mystery thousands of years old can do to you. I think Wheatley tries to capture some of that.

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    • Absolutely Ray. He definitely taps into that again. One scene in particular in Sightseers echoes it loudly: where they’re watch the ritualistic sacrifices from their caravan site. Added to which, all the tourist sites they visited had an energy to them. Well spotted, man. Glad to hear you enjoyed it also. After seeing Kill List I couldn’t wait to see what Wheatley would do next. Now that I’ve seen that result, I can’t wait for his next one now.

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  10. I’ve seen this film floating around out there, must check it out.

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  11. Yay! Have been waiting for this!

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  12. Even though I despised Kill List I want to check this out. Nice write up buddy ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • “Despised” Kill List? That’s a tad extreme man. I urge you to reconsider. That being said, I did think this was slightly better and a lot more fun.

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      • Haha, it was soooooo boring and the ending was ridiculous. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • I didn’t find it boring at all. Thought it was a great working class crime drama. I can understand your reasoning for the ending, though. It didn’t entirely make sense to me but I do believe it will when dissected properly. I’ve got a bit of a handle on it but I’ll need to see it again.

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  13. I know you said this is a different kind of horror, but I still don’t know if this is for me Mark. Sorry mate, great review as always though.

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    • Thanks Ruth. You should consider it. I think this might be one that could pass the test with you. I know your not overly enthusiastic on violent or horrific films but this plays it under the radar enough and has a very warped sense of humour. It’s actually a lot of fun. Think about it. You might just enjoy yourself here.

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  14. […] Wheatley’s Sigthtseers got glowing reviews from Mike at Mikes Film Talk (5/5) and Mark from Marked Movies […]

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  15. Popcorn Nights Says:

    Looking forward to seeing this, I’ve heard good things. Nice write up Mark!

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  16. Excellent review! I like what you said about how this film handled shifts in tone, as that can be difficult to pull off effectively in such a dark comedy. I definitely want to see this.

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  17. Think I’ll try and see this in the next couple of weeks. If you like Alice Lowe, check out Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, if you haven’t already. God, I loved that show. She played a nurse. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0397150/

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  18. Finally got to see this (just wrote a review) and I really loved it! I was a big fan of “Kill List” and the brutality of it. It was nice to see Wheatley not only do something different but blend violence with comedy in such a great way. Also, the characters were so awkwardly awesome it was ridiculous.

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    • I was a big fan of Kill List too Ryan but I think I enjoyed this even more. Wheatley certainly has the skills and this was a great change of direction from him. I’ll swing by on your review, man. I’m interested in reading that.

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  19. […] Sightseers * * * * (mrmarakai.wordpress.com) […]

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  20. I remember you reviewing this some time ago and here I am, thought I would check it out after finally getting round to watching it myself and reviewing it; and also to see if you’re still kicking? Anyway nice review and spot on with what I thought of it too. I still think Kill list is better though mate, this was different but not that far removed from Wheatley’s messed up genius. He’s already got another one the cards.

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    • Glad to hear you liked it, man. I thought it was marvellous and would rate just slightly higher than Kill List, although I gave them both 4 stars. There’s not much between them.

      I’m still kicking, man, but took a break from blogging at the moment. I’ve not been watching, reading or writing anything. I’m far too busy at the moment. I only started taking notes again, for the first in ages, yesterday. Hopefully, I’ll be back into the swing of things by the end of the week.

      By the way, I not sure about it accuracy but Wheatley’s new film is supposedly being released on demand, in cinemas and on film 4 all on the same day. I believe it’s June (or July) 5th. It worth googling that (I should too) incase we miss a free opportunity to see it. That kind of thing is unheard of but I like his style if it’s true.

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      • well, I have been super busy with reviews but in danger of burn out so I hear you, come check them out when you want to get a feel for it all again. Still thinking about you up there buddy so come back when you can but dont force it, I learned that hard lesson!

        I heard that too and it seems to be an emerging way of doing things. with cinema getting expensive and on demand cheaper and less effort particularly with smart TV it may be the way forward for films that may not get a wide cinema release.

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  21. […] he wants to try his hand at many genres. Kill List was heady mix of kitchen-sink drama and horror, Sightseers was a black comedy, High Rise was a dystopian morality tale on class divide and now with Free Fire, […]

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