Published Jan 16, 2013With its extreme juxtaposition of dry, awkward humour and visceral, nauseating gore, Sightseers feels like James Gunn (Super) directing a feature-length spin-off of the original British version of The Office, only without a firm standard of morality, however deluded.
It's tempting to compare this story of two frumpy, middle-aged lovers on a cross-country killing spree to Natural Born Killers, simply in reference to the nuts and bolts of its premise, but in tone and execution, the two films are entirely dissimilar.
Ben Wheatley's third film (after Down Terrace and Kill List) is chiefly concerned with the passive-aggressive struggle for power implicit in most "civil" human exchanges. He pursues this theme by allowing his quirky, but amiable and polite characters to reach and boil over the point of self-control, magnifying the revenge fantasies of many a timid schlub haunted by their ineffectuality.
Tina (Alice Lowe, Hot Fuzz), a peculiar, guilt-ridden canine enthusiast — discovering the source of her guilt is one of the film's many disquieting gags — who lives under the oppression of a manipulative, paranoid, fear-mongering mother, nervously escapes her sheltered life for a vacation with her boyfriend of three months, aspiring author Chris (Steve Oram).
Their meticulously planned peaceful getaway is put off course when Chris accidently backs their caravan over an uncouth litterbug plaguing his enjoyment of a heritage tour. To Chris, the blood gushing from the man's neck is the sight of a balanced karmic scale, emboldening him to become an active agent of vengeance upon anyone he perceives as rude or standing in the way of his sense of entitlement.
Rather than faze her, Chris's selfish bloodlust puts some extra zip in Tina's knickers and unlocks her inner sociopath, which feeds into a synergistic loop of increasingly irrational responses to any threat to their venal façade of happiness.
Though it's a little intellectually subdued, well-realized characters, a very specific application of sound design and consistent, multi-faceted humour that handily mixes affectionate foolery with witty social observations, elaborate vulgarity and jarring moments of casual violence make Sightseers a cheeky, nihilistic delight. (IFC)