The new film from Kill List director Ben Wheatley puts a very British spin on the loved up murderers trope. Whereas Bonnie and Clyde carried out their crime spree with the hustle and bustle of 1930’s America as the backdrop, and Badlands had Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek travelling through the beautiful American wilderness, Sightseers central couple, Chris and Tina (Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, both on writing duty here also), have caravan parks and tram museums.
Much like Kill List, which also had a plot that is typically given a more glamorous setting but instead was set against the boring backdrop of the English landscape, Sightseers main source of (black) humour is the fact that this outlandish story is happening in the rather tranquil and mundane setting of the West Country. It’s a trick that is a goldmine for comedy; in a Hollywood production, the first murder would be as a result of something major happening; here, it’s because a tourist has dropped some litter on a vintage tram and refuses to pick it up when asked. Obviously, he must die.
And he does.
The relationship between the central couple is as sweet as it is twisted; they fight, they make up, they fight again, they kill people. It’s a refreshingly honest portrayal of how a burgeoning relationship works, with both parties involved just trying to do what they think the other person wants them to. Unfortunately for any other caravanners, that involves killing folk.
However, most of the situations are very funny and a lot of the eccentricities of the caravanning life are astutely observed; the students playing drums into the wee small hours, the Daily Mail reading posho, the author researching his new book. All these stereotypes are very on the nose, but instantly relatable to anyone who’s been on this type of holiday. But as we’re rooting for the odd couple, even if they are on the wrong side of psychotic, all the quote unquote normal people that they come across are presented in the film as insufferable and deserving of their eventual fates at the hands of Chris and Tina.
But despite the very familiar trappings, and the believable relationship of the couple, the film for the most part feels like a (admittedly very good) comedy sketch writ large and as such stretched very thin over an hour and a half. There are some very funny one liners and moments (such as Chris complaining that the man he’s accidentally run over has “ruined the tram museum for me now”) provided you can get on board with the films blacker than black humour, and don’t feel too uncomfortable chortling at how many people are killed with gleeful abandon, but ultimately it runs out of steam towards the somewhat predictable end. As a ‘lovers on the run’ film, it’s no True Romance.
3 and a half stars.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell