Saturday, July 13, 2013

In short: Sightseers (2012)

When even a film as great as Ben Wheatley's last one, the brilliant Kill List, turns out to be somewhat divisive, I shudder to think what people will say about Sightseers, a black comedy of the most peculiar type.

Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) go on a sightseeing trip through the English countryside (filmed in a subtly beautiful way). that trip also becomes a minor killing spree. Chris and Alice are a very British skewed mirror image of the serial killer couples haunting the imagination of the American mid-west, with all the sexiness (though not the sex) and the "youth in rebellion" replaced by the the hang-ups of beginning middle age, the quotidian grotesque, and the small-mindedness that so easily turns mean.

The film's humour is peculiar enough to take getting used to, seeing as it often works by just giving the slightly surreal parts of daily life (or the real world, if you want) a push towards the even more surreal, very much in the spirit that brought us other peculiar British things of the macabre yet (sometimes) funny disposition. It's also the same general spirit that brought us hauntology, the music of the Ghost Box label and Scarfolk, a spirit I think of whenever I - as a non-Brit - hear the word "British". I'm sorry, the Queen, but this is exactly what I want from your country. Just blame Rialto's Edgar Wallace movies and The Wicker Man.

Stylistically, this one's just as successful as Kill List was, with Wheatley effortlessly going from the petit bourgeois humour to hallucinatory dream sequences to sudden violence and back again as if it were no big thing, turning the film as dream-like as the best European horror movies, even though the plot is nothing like your typical European horror movie. Unfortunately, this description is the best I can come up with for Sightseers attraction, for it is one of these rather infuriating films I fall in love with during their first ten minutes, yet really can't ramble on about as much and as detailed as I would like to. Just treat this write-up as a placeholder for something better and a somewhat helpless attempt at a recommendation, while I insert a final, random shout-out for Sightseers' soundtrack.

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