Camping and caravanning; one of Britain’s most loved and ever-growing holiday pastimes that’s excruciatingly boring to many.
For enthusiast Chris (Steve Oram) his world of Pencil and Tram museums is the world he wants to show new girlfriend Tina (Alice Lowe) in his beloved Abbey caravan. A realm that takes in some of England’s ‘premier’ visitor attractions and to make mundane caravanning matters more exciting, a little bit of murder.
Chris is basically a psycho; his slim attempts at self-justification and calculating have kept his hinted past exploits unnoticed and the holiday to hell on schedule. Chris isn’t as clever as he thinks he is though he just has an axe to grind and a taste for murder; wanting to be “feared and respected” with a disdain for the middling classes; when justifying one extreme execution – “he’s not a person, he’s a daily mail reader!”
Tina is a stay at home kind of girl, suppressed by the need to care for her mum embarking on a journey of carnal knowledge, for now oblivious to the fun to come.
Writers here too, Lowe and Oram have had these characters in their heads for a while and it shows, both playing to script and calling on their knowledge of their misfits in improvised passages, a method encouraged by Director Ben Wheatley.
Their darkly comic play is perfect for Wheatley’s brand of storytelling and here he blurs the lines between horror and comedy more than ever as brutal slayings are instantly shouldered against hilarity.
The Kill List director tones down the eerie mystery of his second superb feature to deliver a film that relies on the familiar absurdity of mundane holiday pastimes along with deadpan dialogue and slapstick executions that while heavy on the gore are steered firmly towards the hilarious.
Like Natural Born Killers meeting Carry on Camping, all the hallmarks of past murderous odysseys with a po-faced kitchen sink study of downtrodden Little Britain serves to offer up Blighty’s Badlands as the bodies pile up and the lovers serenely go on the run with police hunting for “a ginger faced man and an angry woman”.
What makes Sightseers effective is that Wheatley along with Lowe and Oram’s script lampoons a very familiar world to many. If you’re not from Britain, this world may seem alien, but as with Kill List’s domestication of underworld deeds, Sightseers plays in a world that many a childhood and adulthood would have been spent for many natives. Wheatley once more excels in harbouring horrifying extremes in a familiar world.
Lowe and Oram are superb, conveying the many traits of their characters, hinting at bullied pasts, now seemingly on a faceless revenge mission. When managing to play mostly for laughs their fledgling affair is somehow remarkably innocent making their extremes all the more chilling. Their creations may seem caricaturist but it’s not a stretch to at least imagine such individuals in reality on the pitch next door.
But Sightseers never dwells too long on its melon mashing, it’s intentionally pulpy horror is instantly diluted; after dispensing with a walker who reasonably asks for the removal of their dog’s excrement from protected heritage country – “report that to the National Trust mate!”
While grounding events in mock-reality and managing to just keep off the silly track, the cunningly observed dialogue delivered by Lowe and Oram’s mild brummy tones and Wheatley’s tonal shifts may well desensitise in its more absurd moments but Sightseers is completely macabre, hilarious and most chillingly, close to home!