Sightseers – whoever said caravan trips were boring?

Ben Wheatley has previously made his mark with the excellent Down Terrace and the even better Kill List – both great dramas with a thick dose of horrid humour throughout, as well as plenty of shocking violence and deaths. But for his third film, Sightseers, Wheatley has stepped down from writing duties (he wrote Kill List along with Amy Jump and also wrote Down Terrace with Robin Hill), this time directing only. Written by Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who also play the main characters of Tina and Chris, it is yet another dark drama about a disturbing yet loved-up couple and what happens when a new idea takes hold in both their minds.

Tina and Chris both decide to take a romantic caravan trip around Yorkshire, taking in many of the tourist attractions along the way that Chris wants her to see (Crich Tramway Museum and the Keswick Pencil Museum to name a few). Tina is eager to get away from her manipulative Mum (Eileen Davies) and Chris just wants to do some sightseeing so he can get away from it all and hopefully be inspired to start the book he’s always wanted to write. But once the trip has started and after a freak accident, a more sinister, murderous side to Chris begins to emerge…

Although the plot doesn’t exactly sound laugh a minute, Sightseers is in fact one of the funniest films I have seen in a long time. The script by Lowe and Oram is hilarious and has some excellent one-liners. Their performances as Tina and Chris are also terrifically weird and sadistic at times, but more importantly, very funny as well. Lowe portrays Tina as a naïve woman who doesn’t know much about the way of the world, but who seems to have an underlying manipulative streak in her similar to her mother’s. And Oram is equally great as Chris, playing him as a man on the edge who seems constantly ready to teeter over at anything that rubs him the wrong way. However the main achievement for both Lowe and Oram is that they still manage to make the couple likeable despite all the horrors we see them commit, which is also a terrifying thing to realise when watching the film.

While this time the script isn’t written by Wheatley, it still feels very much like one of his productions. The direction is slick and beautiful especially when capturing the lush countryside Tina and Chris drive through. Wheatley also uses his trademark fast-paced editing style mixed with bizarre and eerie sounds and music to create a disorientating, almost dreamlike atmosphere. And scenes of brutal, bloody violence that will sometimes make you cringe are peppered throughout the film as well, another element used in Wheatley’s previous films which makes this (as well as Wheatley’s other films) all the more powerful and memorable.

Sightseers is one of the funniest, yet darkest films of last year about a strange pair of characters who manage to remain likeable and hilarious throughout. The script by Alice Lowe and Steve Oram is superb and definitely marks them as ones to watch out for in future productions. All this plus the direction by Wheatley makes for a brilliant film that feels resolutely British in its humour and subject matter, but in a gloriously good and refreshing way. Watch, have a laugh, and be horrified.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on January 17, 2013.

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