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New Release Review - Sightseers

Directed by: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies

A caravan holiday in the British countryside takes a dark turn.

Director Wheatley won many admirers with his tense horror 'Kill List' last year. The story of two recession hit ex-squaddies who turn to contract killing for a shadowy organisation, it showed Wheatley was a talent to keep an eye on. Here was a film-maker who understood how to get under our skin, referencing classic seventies horrors like 'The Wicker Man', 'Race With the Devil' and 'The Omen' while creating something thoroughly contemporary. Though I was impressed with the manner in which he created a suffocating tension, I felt his previous work ultimately lead to an anti-climax. The same can be said for his latest, a black comedy, though one with horror elements.
Lowe and Oram are brilliant as a sociopath and his impressionably timid girlfriend. They set off for a week's holiday through some of middle England's less glamorous locales, stopping off to visit museums based on such diverse subjects as trams and pencils. Unbeknownst to his partner at first, Oram is on a killing spree, finding various ways of justifying his actions, often in a contradictory manner. His first victim is a litterbug while later he kills a rambler who complains that the couple are spoiling a tourist sight by not cleaning up after their dog. When Lowe discovers his secret she too embarks on a killing frenzy, though is much clumsier about covering her tracks, thus straining the relationship.
I'd be lying if I claimed I didn't find myself cracking up laughing at many points in Wheatley's film. Lowe and Oram are two skilled comic performers, combining whip crack timing with a physical awkwardness both amusing and endearing. It's been said there's no such thing as a cheap laugh but I have to disagree and this film backs up my view. Much of the amusement comes not from the script but the situation. Were you to watch a documentary about a pencil museum, for example, I suspect you would find it equally amusing. This sort of mocking humor is milked dry for the first hour, leaving you wondering exactly where this is all leading. The answer is nowhere in particular. This is a road trip which starts off well but ultimately finds itself rambling in a directionless manner. If you long for a working class British take on 'American Psycho', I suggest 2009's 'Tony' over this.
5/10
Sightseers (2012) on IMDb 7.4/10

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