It’s interesting how easily you can walk out of Sightseers and carry on with your every day life. You won’t think about it in the elevator on the way to your car, or an hour later at the grocery store. You won’t quote its inside jokes to friends later at the bar. But it’s at night, when you finally crawl into bed that its musings sneak up on you. And suddenly, it’s incredibly perplexing and increasingly eerie.
But it’s a comedy! And it’s actually funny. No cheap jokes in this one guys. Sightseers’ humor rises cleverly from the neurosis and idiosyncrasies that plague its two main characters. Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram) are off on holiday together. They’ve only known each other for 3 months, but their love is all a bloom. Chris is set on showing Tina all the monuments and museums he’s discovered off the beaten England path. The pencil museum is a must!
Not far into the trip, Chris runs over a man accidentally with his caravan. As the blood spurts from the victim’s neck and Tina turns away in shock, Chris’s face hints a feeling of satisfaction. It’s a ghostly glance that foretells his true identity. Soon, Tina becomes aware of her lovers’ inclination for murder. He kills a fellow camper without sweating a bead.
The murders are no short of gore and it’s hard not to cringe in your seat. And we look to Tina to feel the same, but she shrugs off Steve’s flaw. He does have logical reasoning behind his killing, at least to her.
The story unfolds hysterically with a mounting pile of bodies as well as a curiosity behind both character’s motivations. They toss away a body the way we toss a piece of trash. Their relationship is also strangely relatable. Haven’t we all done something ridiculous for an infectious love affair? Let’s just hope it doesn’t include throwing someone off a cliff.
Without the delicate humor of Lowe and Oram, the film would flop into horror mode. The screenplay was written by the duo that previously performed the characters on tour. Traveling with the live UK Steve Coogan show, they were able to construct Tina and Steve. This makes their relationship incredibly complex on the big screen. One second Steve is calling Tina a “witch” and the next doodling romantic sketches of them in his notebook. Convoluted? I think so. And there’s a dash of manipulative murder just to make their relationship slightly more parasitic. But the real humor doesn’t arise from their fickle affair, but from their nonchalance towards disposing of human life.
They do it for each other. They do it for each other?
Ben Wheatley, who directed the film, is clearly one to watch. His online animations, comic strips and cartoons are what first garnered attention, finding an international audience of over 20 million. Sightseers is only his sophomore feature effort and possesses a strange balance of both naivety and wisdom. This duality exists in his two main subjects as well as the camera’s perspective on all their actions. At one moment we watch the couple frolic across the British countryside and another, smash a man’s head in with a rock. But still, there is no judgment passed… on any part. Wheatley is indifferent as is his characters, which only makes the audience more eager to protest, “Wait, what the hell just happened?!?”
And that, that question that stayed out of mind and sight all day long, is the one that plagues you as you lay down to sleep.