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|London Film Festival Review: Sightseers|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Saturday, 20 October 2012 16:29|
Director: Ben Wheatley
“It’s a bit eerie, isn’t it?” says Chris (Oram) as he mops blood off the wheel of his Abbey Oxford Caravan. Girlfriend Tina (Lowe) nods. That balance of mundane country life and vivid bloody murder is what fuels Sightseers. Full of murder, sex and trips to Keswick Pencil Museum, Ben Wheatley’s follow-up to Kill List has been heralded as the blackest of black comedies. The only problem with that? It’s not very funny.
Chris and Tina seem a nice enough couple. Both slightly abnormal, they cruise around in their own blissful bubble of pasta and knitted underwear. Things take a turn for the bloody, though, when they accidentally run over a guy at the tram museum. It’s ok, they decide, because he was littering. But soon the bodies start to pile up.
It’s a careful first step from Oram and Lowe’s script, gradually pushing the couple towards a killing spree. But the rest of the victims arrive without point or purpose. There’s no consistent motivation for why they bump people off – not for rudeness, a la God Bless America, or for littering – and that leaves Sightseers without any satirical meaning.
The jokes are sporadic too. One scene, where Tina writes a postcard with a 10-metre pencil, is laugh-out-loud funny, but lots of one-liners fall into the void between silly and serious.
That uneven tone is, of course, the aim: Ben Wheatley’s direction, picking out the shadows and crags in Britain’s countryside, is tailor made for building a sense of ominous dread while maintaining that shabby summer holiday feel. But with graphic killings that aren’t quite shocking enough and gags that don’t split your sides, it’s hard to work out where Sightseers stands.
But the surprising thing is that it makes even more sense when you don’t consider it a comedy. Oram and Lowe do well to invest their relationship with some believable emotion, but it’s Tina who brings the narrative arc to the piece; fighting to get out from under her mother’s thumb, her development from natural born caravanner to full-on psycho is entertaining and disturbing in equal measure. It’s not the imbalance you might be expecting, but Lowe’s performance turns Sightseers into the fun, unnerving jaunt it’s trying to be. Chris had it right to begin with: it’s not hilarious by any means, but it’s certainly a bit eerie.