Love is a funny thing, am I right? It makes us do crazy things, things we wouldn’t normally do like take risks, be adventurous, think outside the box, kill people – wait, what? Yes, Sightseers is an incredibly dark romantic comedy from director Ben Wheatley (Kill List), written by our lead actors Alice Lowe (Tina) and Steve Oram (Chris), which plays right into Wheatley’s horror wheelhouse. Sure, it’s not about an obvious hack and slash serial killer or evil monster, but there’s still plenty of horror surrounding this seemingly mundane road-trip vacation.
As I’d stated, Lisa and Chris are a new couple looking for a nice vacation away from their own lives. Lisa lives with her overbearing mother who smothers her every chance she gets and requires constant attention, and Chris claims he’s looking for inspiration regarding a novel he’s writing, but needs a sabbatical to clear his head. The two decide to take a RV and visit some landmarks for a nice escape from their lives and to finally get some time alone to grow. But after a disastrous event at the first destination, things start to get tense and strange between the two – and violent for everyone else.
Sightseers is like a British version of an unintentional Bonnie and Clyde story, with a little hint of Thelma and Louise, all wrapped up in a seriously quick-witted black comedy about making one poor decision after the next. You’ll wince, feel the love, see the disdain, experience the emotional confusion, and laugh your butt off all in the same movie. Plus there’s a cute little dog – what isn’t there to love!
There’s certainly no ignoring the chemistry between Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, which plays so well with the screenplay they’ve written. These multi-talented artists were not only able to craft a screenplay which starts off as a light romantic comedy that ends as a full-blown pitch-black look at a relationship spiraling out of control, but were also able to portray the characters of Tina and Chris on-screen with the same vigor and humility.
Oram’s character you can never really get a handle on, as we watch his violent acts increase over time. We struggle with the idea it’s just some type of release, but then start to question if there’s a method to this sightseer’s personal madness and inner workings – but that’s the best part. Chris’ psychosis breaks out of nowhere, and then it starts influencing Tina, who we assumed to be innocent and pure – but maybe she still is? When Tina starts adapting Chris’ actions as her own personal release, there’s an obvious amount of under-thinking and immaturity, but also a deviousness and brazen insanity which is awoken – hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
I personally love British sensibilities and that well-known dry wit, especially when written as a dark comedy. You can never tell when they’re trying to be serious or cheeky, blending perfectly into the more psychotic moments with that deadpan delivery yet jokey nature. How are you supposed to interpret those dry lines while a man bludgeons the head of some other innocent man?
The greatest bit about Sightseers is undoubtedly the escalation of events though, because from beginning to end we’re taken on an unexpected journey that pans different cycles of a relationship through means much more gruesome than we’d expect – at all.
We start with a loving couple, and end with what we assume are two entirely changed people. I loved the fact that I sat there watching Chris and Tina while scratching my own head, curiously intrigued as to what the hell I was watching. One minute they’re lovingly playing around on Tina’s bed, excited for the adventure they’re about to embark on, the next thing we know Chris is cleaning blood off of the RV.
The best rides are full of surprises we never could predict encountering, like blindly getting in the car with your mum and somehow ending up at the local ice cream parlor, and Sightseers proves that method through a bevy of twists and turns we can’t even begin to expect. Thanks to outstanding acting by Oram and Lowe which accompany their equally applause-worthy scripting efforts, director Ben Wheatley has struck gold yet again with another off-color film which will no doubt receive the cult status of his previous feature Kill List. Sure, he traded mercenaries and cultists for an RV and a charming little puppy, but don’t expect him to back down on the blood and violence – only this time we don’t see it coming.
Ben Wheatley's latest film delivers horror in the most unexpected ways, but that wouldn't be possible without a darkly enjoyable script and delightfully unsettling performances by Alice Lowe and Steve Oram.