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Review: Sightseers (Directed by Ben Wheatley) (Tiff 2012)

Sep. 14, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) are a somewhat socially inept couple, who decide to take a cross-country trip in Chris' caravan. Tina soon realizes that Chris is prone to murdering the obnoxious people he considers to be ruining his beloved countryside, but rather than be frightened, Tina excitedly joins him and they cut a murderous path through the isle.

REVIEW: SIGHTSEERS is the latest from the remarkably prolific Ben Wheatley. His last film, KILL LIST was one of my favourite movies from last year, and to say I was excited to see SIGHTSEERS at TIFF is a considerable understatement. Consider SIGHTSEERS something of a middle ground between the earth-bound DOWN TERRACE, and the surreal KILL LIST, with it having the almost Mike Leigh-gone berserk style of the first film, and the occasional bursts of carnage of the second.

Stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oran also co-wrote the screenplay, with Edgar Wright on board as producer. Like most of his films, SIGHTSEERS takes it's time setting up the carnage to come, with us getting a good look the quiet desperation of Tina's life, where she lives with her co-dependant, bullying mother- who's never forgiven her for an unfortunate accident involving the family dog and a set of knitting needles.

Chris isn't faring much better, with him being constantly out of work, and often the object of ridicule for his fascination with spots such as the “Keswick Pencil Museum” and the “Crich Tramway Museum”, but for awhile the two seem like a match-made in heaven, until of course- we realize they're actually a match-made in hell.

Rest assured though, SIGHTSEERS is probably the funniest film you'll ever see about a pair of serial killers, and it won't mess with your head the way KILL LIST did, although I still hold that that was probably the best horror film of the last ten years. SIGHTSEERS isn't quite the masterpiece that was, but I still had a really good time with it, and it's worth saying that SIGHTSEERS made me laugh more than most all-out comedies I've seen lately.

Oran and Lowe are good in the same way Michael Smiley's been in Wheatley's last two movies (he sits this one out but is slated to return in Wheatley's next). He really seems to have a knack for getting the most out of his performers, and like his other films, other than a few surreal flourishes, this is shot in a bold, straight-forward style that gives them room to experiment and improvise.

Granted, they're a pair of murdering lunatics, but you can't help but kind of like our homicidal pair, especially once their little family is completed with the addition of a dog stolen from one of their victims. The pooch, named Banjo, but called Poppy by a gender confused Tina, as it's the spitting image of her own beloved dog, is a damn cute little terrier, and one that gives Bonnie from SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, and Uggie from THE ARTIST a run for their milkbones.

All in all, SIGHTSEERS is yet another gem from Wheatley, who's quickly emerging as one of my new favourite directors. He's truly an exciting new voice in the genre, and somebody I hope I'll be watching for decades to come.

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