‘Sightseers’ is, in many ways, the perfect ‘Island of Terror’ film. It’s dark and funny and its locations are camp sites, roadside cafes, ruined abbeys, viaducts, slate mines, owl sanctuaries, tram and pencil museums, show caves and stone circles. I got excited just typing that. It’s also very good, not perfect, but something that I am more than happy to recommend to anybody who likes the idea of a film that combines sudden death and National Trust properties.
Angry Tina and ginger faced Chris are a couple of downtrodden misfits who set out on a ‘sexual odyssey’/ road trip across the North of England. In a caravan. Compulsive knitter Tina (Alice Lowe) is happy to escape her oppressive and manipulative mother, who blames her for the death of their beloved dog, Poppy. Heavily bearded plastics nerd Chris (Steve Oram) is apparently writing a book, and Tina is to be his muse. As they set off, Tina says ‘show me your world’, barely realising that Chris’ world is a strange and violent one, and that he uses murder as a way of getting his own back on litterers, snobs and people who are more successful than him.
Mordantly funny, extravagantly bloody, the film was scripted by Lowe and Oram but many of the scenes are improvised, and this lends immediacy and realism to the film, an approach consolidated by director Ben Wheatley, who shoots on the hoof, capturing some wonderful scenery and, in particular, some truly awful weather, both of which add immeasurably to both the veracity and the atmosphere (it never rains, but it pours, and when it isn’t pouring, it’s hailing). It’s rare to see Britain presented like this, but I like it: the banality and beauty of our sceptered isle in all its damp glory – an ancient and primeval landscape criss crossed by motorways and studded with brown heritage road signs indicating points of (selective) interest.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a woman write a letter with a four foot long pencil, or see crotchless knitted lingerie, then you won’t be disappointed. A great little film, I love it.
Incidentally, Ben Wheatley’s next film is called ‘A Field In England’, and is, apparently, a tale of hallucogenic drugs and necromancy set during the English Civil War. I can’t wait.