Sunday 24 September 2017

Sightseeing and murder

Paul Whitington


(16, limited release, 88 minutes)

Director: Ben Wheatley. Stars: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Monica Dolan, Richard Lumsden.


Kill List established Ben Wheatley as one of Britain's most exciting young directors.

A crime drama with gothic overtones, Kill List evoked the splendid excesses of 1970s British horror, underpinned by a wicked sense of humour. The humour is even more to the fore in Sightseers, a dark and very English satire starring co-writers Alice Lowe and Steve Oram.

Lowe is Tina, an unworldly thirty-something woman who's going steady with a rather intense man called Chris (Oram).

Her overbearing mother Carol (Eileen Davies) is not impressed. When Tina announces she's heading off on a caravan holiday with him, Carol gets histrionic.

"Murderer", Carol mutters at them as they pull away, and as everyone knows, you should always listen to your mother.

For Chris is a psychopath, a morbid, touchy, self-obsessed maniac. The first sign of trouble comes when they stop off at a tram museum and Chris sees a man dropping litter.

When he confronts him he is given the finger, but soon gets his own back by running his enemy over with a caravan. If you think that's an overreaction, Chris is only just getting going, and as he and Tina wend their way through the country they leave a trail of mayhem in their wake.

The opening third of Sightseers is brilliantly written, and Wheatley and his excellent cast have fun juxtaposing the banal tropes of middle class Britain with grand guignol horror.

The film looks great, and Oram, Lowe and especially Davies expertly milk the humour from every situation.

The victims generally deserve what's coming to them, and Wheatley never flinches when it comes to the blood and guts, but Sightseers gets a bit one note once it builds towards its climax.

However it's a very accomplished black comedy, and funnier at times than anything I've seen this year.

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