Wheatley's gear change after the relentlessly gruesome Kill List and crime debut Down Terrace, Sightseers is a black comedy about caravanning around the bleak and beautiful Midlands. It concerns a pair of fledgling lovers, the downtrodden, twitchy Tina (Alice Lowe) and the gently seething Chris (Steve Oram). Tina's lived on the receiving end of her mother's toxic love for years and Chris is going to show her the world, starting with the Crich Tramway Museum.
Accidents turn to incidents and before you know it the mousey pair have acclimatised to blood stains and ill-gotten lunchboxes. This mix of grit and whimsy explains why Sightseers has been labelled the best British comedy since Four Lions.
Packed with tactically employed stereotypes, from be-winged, pissed-up hen nighters to off-the-grid new agers in the yurt field, Sightseers dots its landscape with national in-jokes. "He's not a person, he's a Daily Mail reader" Chris reassures Tina, in one line embodying the fluid morality between left and right, enabling an angry man to justify his rage. Chris is like the liberal who wants to piss on Thatcher’s corpse, and Tina, with her sheltered past and desperate thirst for living, is, to put it bluntly, up for it.
With a script based on years of improvisation, comedians Lowe and Oram developed the characters of Tina and Chris on the UK circuit and their performances are layered with authenticity as a result. Apparently, Wheatley was looking for a comedy and signed on to direct Lowe and Oram’s screenplay, passing it to wife and Kill List writer Amy Jump for restructuring. The end product won Lowe, Oram and Jump best screenplay at SITGES Festival and has provided the ideal vehicle for Wheatley's signature in-your-lap gore and suitably jittery hand held camera.
Wheatley apparently likes to wish an audience good luck before a screening and for a black comedy Sightseers is downright frightening. He subverts genres with such ease, trading horror for comedy and back again. The gags don't punctuate like so many ticked boxes, they serve the movie at every turn, with every laugh you've signed up a bit more, and you're further wedged between romance and sickness. I needed fresh air afterwards and managed to get from Soho to Hackney on foot just to walk the fucker off.
As much as this is a highly visible British movie, with Warp behind it, with Ben Wheatley's track record, it could very well flounder at the box office, so when it opens on Friday, if you haven't seen it by other means, I would urge you to go and see it because you'll cackle and flinch for a solid 88 minutes.