British director Ben Wheatley is definitely a man whose career you want to follow. After the brilliant “Kill List” here is the equally brilliant “Sightseers,” about a couple vacationing in the English countryside. They visit quaint little locations such as the Pencil Museum, they have a healthy dose of sex in their caravan, adopt a dog, and get closer than ever before. Also, they occasionally kill a person every now and then. This is a comedy, and at times it is laugh-out funny.
Tina (Alice Lowe) is an emotionally fragile woman living with her domineering mother Carol (Eileen Davies). Her boyfriend of three months Chris (Steve Oram) has organized a road trip for the two of them, much to Carol’s dismay. Either because she does not want to be alone or because she wants to keep berating her daughter, she is absolutely against the two of them spending time together. In fact, she point blank tells Chris “I don’t like you” right before they leave.
This seems uncalled for, but the mean lady is on to something. Like Tina, Chris seems like any ordinary guy. An aspiring writer who, like many aspiring writers, has not written anything in a long time, he claims Tina is his muse and thinks the trip is just what he needs to get the juices flowing. He has a somewhat geeky knowledge of caravans, he is polite, and he dislikes people who litter. He dislikes them so much he backs into one of them with his caravan, spewing blood all over the side of the vehicle.
Chris says it was an accident and the authorities believe him, but the look on his face tells another story. As Tina and Chris travel to different tourist attractions, the bodies start piling up, most of the time looking like an accident. The emotionally dependent Tina is initially oblivious to the killings, but when she finds out, she accepts it and even manages to rationalize it. From an uptight yuppie to a man threatening to report them for letting their dog poop on the grass, their victims are people who personally annoy them or in their eyes don’t qualify as human beings. In fact, the way Tina sees it, this is good for the environment. By killing them, they eliminate their carbon footprint.
So there are both completely insane, no doubt about it. On paper this would seem like an average thriller about psychopaths killing innocent people, and initially this is how it is shot. One murder is terrifyingly shot as Chris bashes a man’s skull, an image juxtaposed with an egg being cracked and shamans sacrificing chickens in a field nearby. Grim stuff, but as the story progresses and Tina becomes more involved in the killings the story adopts a more darkly humorous tone.
Imagine two serial killers trying to have a serious conversation about the rules of murdering people. When Tina kills a random guy off the street, Chris is horrified saying you need justification to commit murder. He goes as far as calling her a witch who is pure evil. Those are some big words coming from a guy who beat a man to death with a walking stick. So really it is not so much Tina’s murders that bother Chris, but the fact that she is disorganized about the way she commits them. Maybe his next writing project should be a rulebook for murder.
Beneath the murders, the blood, and the (very) dark humor, you could see this as a love story. The scary thing is that Tina and Chris really are just another average couple, who are trying to keep their relationship alive by going to places such as a tramway museum. Like every couple, they have their arguments, only their arguments just happen to be about whom they should and should not kill. Here is a fascinating portrait of two deranged murderers who really love each other.
(“Sightseers” is out on DVD and Blu-Ray and is streaming on Netflix.)