Monthly Archives: November 2012
We don’t often do movie reviews in the Land of Sunshine but seeing that the good people at Den of Geek were kind enough to furnish me with a ticket to an exclusive screening it seemed rude not to.
Ben Wheatley’s last film ‘Kill List’, was a bleak, gruesome and violent affair that delved into the dark world of contract killers. Sightseers is a bleak, gruesome and violent affair that delves into the dark world of, well, caravan holidays. Yes Sightseers is a comedy, albeit a very dark one.
It tells the tale of Chris and Tina. A new couple who are off on a caravaning holiday so Chris can show Tina ‘his world’. Tina is simply happy to get away from her overbearing mother who likes to keep Tina in a permanent state of guilt over a past incident. To explain much more would be to ruin it somewhat but anyone who’s familiar with the director’s previous work will not be surprised to learn that things don’t go exactly swimmingly.
Written by its stars Steve Oram and Alice Lowe (who fellow geeks will most likely know from the brilliant ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’), the dialogue has a wonderfully stilted, naturalistic feel (suggesting a lot of improvisation) which really helps add veritas to the dreary settings of caravan parks and tram museums that the film takes us through. One brilliantly emotive scene even takes place in the screening room of a pencil museum. And that, at its heart, is the genius of Sightseers. For all its violence and bloodshed, much of it is very, very ordinary. Conversations take place about potpourri and plastic moulding, tempers are raised over litter bugs and picking up dog poo, and virtually every character is totally unremarkable in most senses. So when the blood does flow it is all the more jarring, like Natural Born Killers meets Caravan Monthly.
Wheatley’s direction is very similar in style to that of Kill List. Cameras are mostly handheld and scenes are cut awkwardly giving a disjointed, documentary feel which, while taking a little time to get used to, completely suits the film’s tone. But a film like this really hangs off its lead performers. Aside from a small support cast of characters this is Chris and Tina’s story and the two leads more than deliver. Oram is pure passive aggressiveness broiling behind a ginger beard, three parts caravan enthusiast, one part something much darker. But he is no Norman Bates. Every one of Chris’ actions are grounded in reason and belief, in his mind he is a model citizen standing up for what he believes is right. But the shining star is Alice Lowe who grows from doe-eyes ingenue into a woman who’s finally taking control of her life for the very first time. Even at her most insane moments she retains the certain lovability of a child on a rite of passage. This is not a glamorous role and she grasps it with both hands.
And yes, it is very funny. In many ways it shares a sense of humour with the mighty Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright was one of the producers) in putting very unremarkable people in remarkable situations, but tonally it’s very different, swapping Shaun’s frenetic London setting for the laid back wilds of the Midlands and the North. Both are however, very, very English. It also has some cracking dialogue (“He’s not a person, he’s a Daily Mail reader”).
Sightseers is not for everyone. If you’re a fan of gentle romantic comedies starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew McConaughey then the bleak setting, awkward tone and moments of bone crunching violence may not sit too well with you. However if you like your humour with lashings of darkness then Sightseers is right up your street.