Kill for love – Sightseers review

Sightseers1

By Richard Haridy
April 30, 2013

Ben Wheatley is one of the most promising young directors to come out of the UK of late. His first feature, Down Terrace, was a sharp, tense, and comic chamber piece, whilst his following film, Kill List, was simply the best, most horrifying genre flick this writer had seen in years. His third, Sightseers, continues his prolific experimental run by mashing novel tones and textures, this time going for outright black comedy with a particularly British sensibility.

Chris and Tina (Steve Oram & Alice Lowe; also the co-writers) have only been dating for a month but decide to set out on a caravan holiday through the British Isles. Chris is determined to show Tina the world and take her to such riveting destinations as the Crich Tramway Museum. As they travel the countryside, Tina discovers that Chris may have an anger management problem. Yet, her reaction to Chris’ true nature ultimately surprises them both.

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Wheatley situates his picture squarely in the classic British tradition of black comedies (Ealing productions such as Kind Hearts And Coronets and The Ladykillers are certainly brought to mind). Unfortunately, Wheatley doesn’t achieve a satisfying consistency of tone, and tends to take an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach to his material. Uncomfortably lurching from broad slapstick to dark and sharp gore – often in the space of a single scene – Sightseers adds up to a rather jumbled whole, despite the punchlines hitting as often as they miss. The tonal shifts served him well in his prior efforts, with Kill List in particular moving from domestic drama to crime thriller to horror in exciting ways. Here, it frustrates more than pleases.

After running out of ideas in the final act, Wheatley resorts to what’s beginning to feel like his trademark jarring ending. Oram and Lowe do make a fascinating central couple though, and their cumulatively sociopathic dynamic is always fun to watch. Overall, Sightseers is a refreshingly uncompromising black comedy that will suit those whose sense of humour leans to the dark side.

3.5/5

Sightseers is available on DVD and Blu-ray from May 1, 2013.

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