In this hit-the-road adventure, Chris (Steve Oram) wants to show Tina (Alice Lowe) his world by leading her on a macabre joyride through the British Isles in his camping trailer. On the pretense of seeking inspiration for a debut novel, Chris maps a path along some of England’s tackiest tourist attractions. Tina’s life is sheltered influenced by her meddling and suffocating mother, and Chris plans to open her eyes to a wider world. The introverted Tina, who lives with her mother in semi detached misery, finds diversion in knitting and as a dog walker. But things change when she meets charming joker Chris who she senses can free her from home bondage. Bidding mum goodbye, the duo set off for the camping trip of a lifetime, but it doesn’t take long for the dream to fade. Litterbugs, noisy teenagers and pre booked camping sites, soon conspire to shatter Chris’s dreams and send him, and anyone who rubs him the wrong way, over a very jagged edge. Tina and Chris are on their way to being labeled the Bonnie and Clyde of the English countryside. . At the wheel of a Volvo caravan equipped with dashboard gadgets and digital maps Chris looks every inch the harmless rambler. But beneath the chivalrous façade Chris is a man with one fierce desire: “I just want to be feared and respected. It’s not too much to ask from life, is it?”

The first stop on Chris and Tina’s journey is a seemingly sedate tram museum. During the tour, Chris sees another visitor carelessly drop his ice cream wrapper on the floor of a vintage tram. Chris is left seething by the litterbug’s open contempt for his protestations and, as they prepare to leave the museum, reverses the caravan over the man and kills him. The horror of this apparent accident provokes an emotional response in Tina and Chris and they can barely wait to tear each other’s clothes off and have sex in the caravan in a busy truck stop surrounded by curious lorry drivers. At a campsite for the night, they meet Ian and Janice, but it’s a tense social gathering as Chris boils over when he discovers that Ian is a published writer, something Chris aspires to but cannot accomplish. The murderous look returns to Chris’s eyes and he follows Ian the next morning to a remote bluff where he bludgeons him to death with a rock, stealing his camera and dog Banjo for good measure. Chris feels justified in the murders, assuring himself that it was “smug complacency that killed Ian”, but his new found swagger and confidence spells danger for whoever gets in his way. Tina uncovers Chris’s murder of Ian after first misreading the pictures on the stolen camera as evidence of an affair. Soon enough she gets to witness Chris commit another murder, an unfortunate sod who takes issue with the couple over their dog fouling on site. The inscrutable Tina doesn’t seem bothered by her partner’s bloodlust, only intrigued: “I never thought about murdering an innocent person like that before.” Tina might not have considered murder in the past, but seeing Chris club a man to death brings something out in her and, in a fit of jealousy; she kills a woman from a rowdy hen party whom she suspects of trying to seduce Chris and also of mocking her.

With both Tina and Chris now seemingly out of control and the relationship between the two steadily deteriorating, Tina commits yet another killing even more random than those before, running down a jogger on the side of the motorway. Chris is panicked by Tina’s recklessness and the frequency with which they are now wracking up deaths: “I’ve done more murders in three days with you than I did in the six months since I got made redundant!” he says. Having accidentally left their dog with Martin, an earth loving ecotraveller they met at a previous campsite, Chris and Tina arrange a meeting on a remote cliff top. Martin and Banjo arrive in his pedal powered cara-pod (a one man caravan on wheels) and Martin is subjected to a dreadfully dull evening with Tina and Chris before excusing himself for an early night. Following a vicious argument with Chris, Tina pushes Martin and his cara-pod over the side of the cliff towards a certain death. Chris is turned on by this, but also realizes the fatal conclusion his relationship with Tina must reach. Chris and Tina, having agreed on a tragic romantic suicide pact, stand atop a precipitous aqueduct and hold hands ready to jump. “Sightseers” thrives on black humor veering away from formulaic plots eyeballed on main stream screens.

For those, like me who enjoy outrageous yet clever narrative, it’s entertainment that stimulates the imagination. Before writer-sketch performers Alice Lowe and Steve Oram hit the road as Tina and Chris, they worked at refining the characters, first on stage and then as leads in a television pilot, ultimately rejected by British channels for being “too dark!” The duo discovered humor in the discussions of the caravan crowd about mundane things and then disposing of body parts in the same breath. The idea to have them going on holiday and knocking people off whilst visiting tourist areas made Lowe and Oram laugh. They submitted the idea to intrigued movie producers and when director Ben Wheatley expressed interest, a script was written and a film was born. The movie combines gloomy humor and elements of horror with effortless ease. There are claims the story approaches hysteria, but it’s more likely to initiate chortling and sniggering more than anything.

The humor makes light of killing on a regular basis while things like over protective mothers, littering, sex, dog doo doo, bachelorette parties, and jealousy are portrayed in unusually entertaining ways that often result in graphic bloodshed. “Sightseers” won’t be applauded by everyone, but as a brilliantly grim, and reasonably amusing comedy pushing generally accepted boundaries, it should find admirers. I got the same kick watching the outrageous British vampire flick “Shaun of the Dead”. Your laugh genes should get a workout with this wicked roadie opus.

Alex Reynolds

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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