Ben Wheatley is another name on that short list of directors whose movies I’ll see automatically just cuz it’s theirs. Obviously the height of Ken Russell-level weirdness is A Field In England with Kill List not being too terribly far behind.
There’s just something about the feel of a Ben Wheatley film that’s just so delightfully off, and that includes Sightseers. At first blush, I suppose one would classify this as a sometimes unpleasantly pitch black comedy.
Tina (the never not watchable Alice Lowe) has both a fairly shielded life and tense relationship with her mother. It’s strained further after Tina accidentally kills her mother’s dog, Poppy (her mother maintains it was on purpose and in the movie’s cold open calls her a murderer).
Tina’s boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram) thinks she needs to get out. See some things. Have some experiences. So, despite mother dear’s disapproval, she heads off with him in his caravan for a week long sigthseeing adventure. As you may well imagine, hilarity ensues right from the off. First, Chris backs over a litterbug.
It’s not completely clear how accidental this is, but it definitely gives Chris a satisfied grin. Incidentally, the guy drops a toy he was holding which we see later on Chris’s dashboard. Nice lil touch of creepy, that. Anyway, the police rule it an accident, and our couple is off again after an intense roadside roll in the hay.
Next they stop at a campground where they meet Janice, Ian (huh…Janice Ian? Interesting), and their dog Banjo. Ian and Janice are kinda snooty, uptight, and standoffish which sets Chris off again. The next morning, he catches up to Ian during a walk, bashes him with a rock, and tosses him off a cliff. Banjo runs off but later wanders into their campsite, and they make off with him on the way to Blue John Cavern where nobody gets killed.
Right. Another park, another murder. This time some guy insists Tina pick up after the dog (which she should in fact do). But his air of snobby superiority is shittier than anything the dog left behind, so Chris has another go at some head bashin’ justified by saying “He’s not a person Tina. He’s a Daily Mail reader.” Ultimately, nobody in this movie is likeable, and the second half carries on in pretty much the same fashion whilst also growing progressively darker.
Much like, say, Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) or John Waters’s Serial Mom (1994), Chris and Tina mainly kill off the kinds of folks many of us would like to at the very least smack across the face in real life—the pompous, the pretentious, the self-important, the entitled, the self-righteous, and those with no self-awareness. After about 50 minutes though , this gets less and less amusing and more and more uncomfortable which is, it seems, the whole point.
In the end it all goes off the rails. Any semblance of what Tina and Chris may have considered “control” is gone. We’ve seen from the start that she’s kind of an idiot, and like his victims, he’s a bit of an insufferable bastard himself, and this finally goes about as far as it can. I won’t give away the big finish, but movie’s very end is also by far its darkest turn.
Well like they say, whoever they are. Take only pictures. Leave only footprints…and, y’know, a bloody trail of bodies.
BODIES- 7 onscreen
Rent- Apple TV, Google Play, Prime, YouTube