Back to IndieWire

5 Reasons Why You Must See The Hilariously Dark & Twisted ‘Sightseers’

5 Reasons Why You Must See The Hilariously Dark & Twisted 'Sightseers'

Caravanning into theaters this weekend in limited release is Ben Wheatley‘s “Sightseers.” It’s easily one of the best films of the year so far and perhaps more importantly one of the most enjoyable. Our review of the film from Cannes last year affectionately dubbed it “Natural Born Campers,” and that’s pretty apt. A pitch-black road-trip comedy (or at least that’s one of many ways to describe it), “Sightseers” centers on Chris and Tina, two misfit lovers taking a sightseeing trip through rural England, but during their voyage, Chris (Steve Oram) starts to show his psychopathic true colors once he crosses paths (and becomes incensed) with society’s various annoying boobs: the careless litterer, the obnoxiously loud party girls, the pedantic asshole, etc.

Much to his surprise, in a show of real love (or just to show how demented they both are) Tina (Alice Lowe) proves she can get down and dirty too. We feel like we’ve already said too much, but suffice it to say “Sightseers” is an utter laugh riot; a completely hysterically twisted look at love and the serial killer genre. But if there’s perhaps one thing holding the movie back it’s that it features no stars, in fact not even any discernible faces to U.S. audiences, so in that sense there’s little that’s “sexy” about the picture from a marketing angle. But trust us when we say: “Sightseers” is the shit and a movie that had us howling in our seats the whole time. There are other cinephile-y indie films that you might anticipate more this year because of the buzz around them (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” “Upstream Color,” “Kings of Summer,” anything in our Most Anticipated Indie Films list of The Summer), but if you sleep on “Sightseers,” you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Here’s five good reasons why you need to see this movie immediately.

1. It’s directed by Ben Wheatley, who may as well be the next Nicolas Winding Refn when it comes to genre movies.
Who? Put it this way: if you love genre filmmakers like Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”) Park Chan-Wook (“The Vengeance Trilogy”) and Bong Joon Ho (“Mother,” “The Host “) then Wheatley should seriously be on your radar. In his short, three-films-long career thus far, Wheatley’s not had a misstep and arguably hasn’t made a film that wasn’t short of excellent. And yes, it’s early days for the growing filmmaker, but it also seems like he can do a little bit of everything. “Down Terrace,” his debut, is a hilariously dark family drama, “Kill List” is an unnerving hit-man drama that morphs into a chilling (and truly shocking) horror, and “Sightseers” once again demonstrates his ease with twisted comedy and psychopaths. If you’re not totally convinced, his docket may prove it; he’s working on a monster movie, an animated movie, a crime flick, and has already completed his next movie, “A Field In England,” which is a psychedelic Civil War-era period piece that comes out in July in the U.K. Wheatley’s taste is omnivorous and his pace is outrageous. The new version of Soderbergh? One to watch if you aren’t already.

2. The soundtrack kills.

Music is always a big element for Wheatley, but the employment of it has been mostly subtle in his films so far. “Down Terrace” makes wonderful ironic use of blues and folk (Robert Johnson, Karen Dalton) and “Sightseers” employs an eclectic mix of tunes including the hilarious featuring of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” as a type of theme song. But the use of music in the film is as sharp and wry as anyone utilizing pre-existing pop songs today (Danny Boyle would be jealous). There’s moody kraut rock that works as throbbing sinister foreshadowing worthy of something out of William Friedkin’sSorcerer” (Harmonia, Neu!, Popol Vuh), cheekily comical use of songs by Donovan, Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc, and the funniest use of a Frankie Goes To Hollywood song ever? Yes, pretty much (full soundtrack list below).

3. It’s romantic and violent, so it’s got something for everyone.
The violence in the movie is blunt, bloody and raw for those that go for that sort of thing (though admittedly, it’s pretty fucking funny). But that’s the only way Wheatley would have it. “If you soft-pedal on violence, then I think you advocate it,” he said in a recent interview with The Playlist. “If you make a movie with violence in it, but you don’t show the violence being horrible, then you are kind of being disingenuous about the whole thing. No one can accuse me of advocating it or making bloody murder look anything other than horrible.”

But as fucked up as “Sightseers” can be, it’s also strangely soulful, with a genuine romantic current running through it that’s easy to relate to. And that’s what ultimately makes “Sightseers” much more than your average funny-psychopaths-on-the-road movie. Chris and Tina are lost, estranged souls, desperate to connect with the world and desperately in need of a vacation (even if it does all go horribly wrong). Alienated from her mother, Tina needs something more. Chris is just completely disconnected from everyone, but together they find a bond that is utterly special. Not only are these themes tangible, they’re also weirdly, deeply moving, and thus this poignancy elevates “Sightseers” into something more. A few scenes even reach wondrous moments of side-splitting, perverse awe that are just are amazing to behold. There’s an undeniable humanity bubbling underneath all the absurd and ghastly elements.

4. The New York Times singled out the two leads, so keep them on your radar.
Alice Lowe and Steve Oram are both the film’s stars and writers. Both have been familiar to fans of British comedy for a while — Lowe, with Richard Ayoade, Matthew Holness and Matt Berry, was one of the members of cult comedy “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace,” along with extensive other credits. Oram’s been a favorite on the live scene for some time. And they just nail every deadpan moment along the way in “Sightseers.” Don’t believe us? Well, how about The New York Times? The Gray Lady recently wrote that when the movie “resorts to broadly macabre comedy, Tina and Chris remain surprising and believable, their heartless actions rooted in sharply drawn feelings of inadequacy and need.” Lowe, they write, “plays Tina’s apparent sociopathy both for laughs and for pathos, walking a tricky line between the absurd and the poignant.” And that’s spot on.

5. It’s got the Edgar Wright seal of approval.
Ok, the “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” director will be the first to admit he’s only an executive producer by name — essentially lending his name to help Wheatley get funding in the U.K. — But “Sightseers” is produced by Wright’s longtime producer Nira Park, and obviously Wright and Park both strongly believe in the filmmaker. Wright tends to lend his name to solid, up-and-coming genre filmmakers like Joe Cornish who directed the fantastic “Attack the Block.” And while in a different universe, we’d argue this film is of that same quality.

“Sightseers” opens in New York and L.A. this weekend. The movie hits VOD on Monday, May 13th and will open up in more markets in the next few weeks. Don’t miss it.

Songs used in “Sightseers”

Written by Ed Cobb
Performed by Soft Cell
Courtesy of Mercury Records (London),
Under licence from Universal Music Operations Ltd
Published by Burlington Music Company Ltd

Written by Jacques Dutronc and Jacques Lanzmann
Performed by Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc
Licensed courtesy of EMI Records and Sony Records
Published by Editions Musicales Alpha

Written by Donovan Leitch
Performed by Vanilla Fudge
Licensed courtesy of Warner Music UK Ltd
Publishing © 1966 & 1967 Donovan (Music) Limited

Written by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother
Performed by NEU!
Licensed courtesy of Grönland Records
Published by Stark Musik / Universal / MCA Music Ltd

Written by Florian Fricke
Performed by Popol Vuh
Licensed courtesy of SPV GmbH, Germany
© 1973 by Ed. Intro Meisel GmbH, Berlin.
Administered by I Q Music Limited (U.K. & Eire)

Written by Sir Edward Elgar
Performed by the Slovak RSO conducted by Adrian Leaper
Licensed courtesy of Naxos Rights International Ltd

Written by Donovan Leitch
Performed by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity
Courtesy of Polydor UK Ltd, under licence from Universal Music Operations Ltd
Publishing © 1966 & 1967 Donovan (Music) Limited

ROMANCE – Andante Non Troppo from Violin Concerto No. 2
Written by Henrik Wieniawski
Performed by Marat Bisengaliev, violin,
with the Polish NRSO conducted by Antoni Wit
Licensed courtesy of Naxos Rights International Ltd

Written by Hans Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius and Michael Rother
Performed by Harmonia
Courtesy of Universal Music Domestic Rock/Urban,
Under licence from Universal Music Operations
Published by Barking Green Music Ltd

Written by Mark O’Toole, Brian Nash, Holly Johnson and Peter Gill
Performed by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Licensed courtesy of ZTT Records, administered by Union Square Music Ltd
Published by Perfect Songs Ltd

Written by Ed Cobb
Performed by Gloria Jones
Courtesy of Universal Music Enterprises,
under licence from Universal Music Operations Ltd
Published by Burlington Music Company Ltd

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox