Ben Wheatley’s third feature manages the difficult task of combining comedy, romance and horror into an ink-black road-trip comedy. Unlike Wheatley’s first two films—the gangster flick Down Terrace
and the occult hit-man horror film Kill List
genre-hops without sacrificing tone or losing focus on its characters. With its story of a murderous couple’s road trip, the film could have been a cheeky British take on Natural Born Killers
. Yet there’s an undeniable sweetness to the film and its core players, two thirtysomething oddballs on a tour that includes stops at museums dedicated to trams and pencils. It’s a caravanning dream trip for the frumpy and overly gregarious Chris (Steve Oram), whose planned “erotic odyssey” with new flame Tina (Alice Lowe)—a lonely dog psychologist who spends her time crocheting crotchless panties—takes a very dark turn following an encounter with a litterbug. Wheatley shows off his gift for the bizarre, jackknifing the film between boring tourist traps and hallucinogenic nightmares, but Sightseers
belongs to Lowe and Oram. The pair have an easy rapport, and their conversations, bickering and affection—largely improvised—make them exceedingly pleasant cinematic companions. It becomes easy to forgive their crimes, which are almost afterthoughts. That’s what makes Sightseers
so challenging, and yet so strangely watchable. At no point do we leave the pair’s side, and as a result, we’re both implicated in their actions and horrified by them. But remove the murders, and Wheatley’s film would still stand as a quirky portrait of the blossoming and flawed love between two lost souls. It tugs at the heartstrings even as its heroes explode ventricles.
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