When Chris (Oram) comes to collect his new girlfriend Tina (Lowe) for their first caravanning trip together, he is met with hilarious animosity from Tina’s mother (Eileen Davis), who is grieving after the suspicious demise of her Jack Russell, Poppy. Characterised by the track ‘Tainted Love’, Chris and Tina’s relationship intensifies as they take their meticulously planned ramble across the ruins and museums of the lake district.
The road movie is a genre that has forever eluded the filmmakers of these longitudinally-challenged British Isles, but a couple of fleece-wearing brummy caravaners going on a killing spree? Now that sounds much more manageable. Sightseers is like a grotesquely beautiful hybrid of Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet and Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes. Written by the stars, Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, this films existence owes much to the success of Shaun of the Dead. Not least that it was produced by Nira Park at Big Talk Productions and executive-produced by the man himself, Edgar Wright.
With the bona-fide team in place, we can rest assured that this is not another shameless imitation of Wright’s previous work. Mr and Mrs Wheatley, also known as director Ben Wheatley and scriptwriter Amy Jump, along with their long-term producer Claire Jones, form one of the hottest properties around. They’ve already got another feature, A Field In England, hot on the tail of Sightseers.
Big Talk were clearly impressed by Kill List and Down Terrace, as it looks as though Wheatley had a bit more budget to play with. The production values are conservative, but refreshingly solid, with some wonderfully gruesome special effects. Sightseers strongest quality seems to be the level of confidence behind it. Wheatley has used director of photography Laurie Rose on all three of his features and their experience provides an element, that many UK indies lack, of professionalism and competence.
For the first seventy minutes, this film is full of laughs and, considering it’s a road-movie, the plot is brilliantly strung together. The world of hill-walking and caravanning is an endless goldmine of British eccentricity and the horrific killing doesn’t feel as out of place as it can do in comedy. About seventy minutes in, as the emotional climax arrived, I realised I had been laughing at the grotesque characters, but I couldn’t particularly give a toss what happened to them either way.
It’s out on a limited release and you should really go and see it. Don’t be scared, I know it was made by English people and the most famous person in it had two lines in Extras, but it’s good and if you go and see it, they’ll make more.