Cannes 2012 Review: Ben Wheatley's Very Dark Comedy 'Sightseers'
by Alex Billington
May 24, 2012
British caravan campers gone wild. Very wild. And very deadly. Sightseers is the latest film from British filmmaker on-the-rise Ben Wheatley, of the controverisal Kill List and Down Terrace previously, and he's back with something a little more lighthearted, but just as sickly dark, twisted and wholly entertaining as his previous work. A quaint, sheltered couple of 30-somethings go on a holiday road trip around Britain and end up becoming Natural Born Killers with a brilliantly comedic edge (as James Rocchi calls it, "Natural Born Campers"). Not necessarily as bold as Kill List, but just as memorable, especially if you like Wheatley.
Written by its stars Steve Oram & Alice Lowe, Sightseers is about Chris (Steve Oram) and new girlfriend Tina (Alice Lowe), one of the most painfully awkward couples you'll ever see. Chris wants to show her "his world", so he takes her on a caravan holiday road trip tour around Britain and it takes a "very wrong turn". Which is to say, it turns out these two lovers have some kind a demented killer streak, and we get to watch at this completely insane love begins to blossom. In the meantime, it's filled with the kind of ingeniously nasty comedy that will make everyone laugh, but especially those that enjoy that dark humor. It reminds me of Kiwi cult classic Eagle vs Shark from Taika Waititi, but with extra homicidal tendencies that set it apart.
It's almost a slightly less camp crazy, less-Bobcat Goldthwait version of God Bless America (which just came out); it could almost be God Bless England, in a weird way. Tip: do not litter. Ever. (Which is good advice anyway.) This guy will come and get you, when you're least expecting, like walking through a parking lot. What works so well in this film is the juxtaposition of dark humor with the charming, awkwardly likable characters and incredibly bloody, violent kills. Everything you'd expect to find in a "cult classic" but this also has more appeal than that, and could go a lot farther just because it's so deviously fun. Both Steve and Alice as the two leads are fantastic, bringing a naturalistic humor to it that helps make it so easy and fun to watch.
Sightseers is the perfect film for horror fans and dark comedy aficionados looking for a refreshing break from the norm. Anyone who stumbles across this will find themselves laughing, cringing and grinning all the way to the end. I just hope no one follows the example set by Chris, or I'll be afraid to go near any caravan camps in England. Another great film from Wheatley that is keeping me interested in whatever he does next.
Alex's Cannes Rating: 7.5 out of 10