Ben Wheatley‘s Sightseers is the ultimate dark comedy. It puts the most audacious visuals in front of you and dares you not to laugh at them. In the film, Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) take a week out caravanning across the English country-side. Little does she know, he’s a murdering psychopath with a short temper. Eventually, the two are traveling from one landmark to another killing anyone who pisses them off.
Earlier this year, Bobcat Goldthwait similar God Bless America received a lukewarm response from critics. This feels like a less overbearing version of that film. While most instances of violence come from things that aggravate our protagonists, the murder spree doesn’t come out of some sense of entitlement. Chris and Tina kill just because they prefer that person dead, for their own gratification and to better enjoy their holiday. It’s not to improve the world around them.
The film derives some great comedic moments from the bookends holding scenes together. Chris kills a man for telling him and Tina to clean up a piece of excrement, which is followed by them asking themselves, “Isn’t the country lovely?” The film revels in how easily Tina and Chris can justify their murders and brush them off as a part of their holiday.
As the film continues, Tina discovers her own crazed self and actively participates in the murders, and we start to see a shift in the relationship. Chris still tries to control her and keep her from going too far. Chris’s murders are done in situations he knew he could take advantage of and not be blamed for. Tina, on the other hand, throws all caution to the wind and it puts Chris in a state of worry.
This sudden burst of violence is somewhat understandable from Tina, having met her mother and learned she had been sheltered from the outside world. When she and Chris are attempting to leave home at the beginning of the film, Tina’s mother tells her that she won’t be able to survive without her. Using a dog collar, she tries to guilt her daughter into staying and leaving this new boyfriend.
Sightseers is a fantastic piece of black comedy, and you may feel guilty for laughing when it’s all over. It will also make you want to pick up and head off into the countryside. You just won’t want to say hi to anyone when you get there.
The Upside: It managed to make me forget about how Wheatley’s Kill List made me curl into the fetal position, crying.
The Downside: The guilt of enjoying watching murder comes over you as you laugh from scene to scene.
On the Side: The screenplay was written by lead actors Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who originally developed the characters for the stage and a TV series pilot, with a polish from Kill List co-writer (and wife of Wheatley) Amy Jump.