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Sightseers (2013)

tomatometer

85

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 95
Fresh: 81 | Rotten: 14

Director Ben Wheatley and writer-stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram deliver a wicked road trip movie that successfully walks the line between dark comedy and horror.

77

Average Rating: 6.7/10
Critic Reviews: 22
Fresh: 17 | Rotten: 5

Director Ben Wheatley and writer-stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram deliver a wicked road trip movie that successfully walks the line between dark comedy and horror.

audience

63

liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 7,673

My Rating

Movie Info

Chris (Steve Oram) wants to show Tina (Alice Lowe) his world and he wants to do it his way - on a journey through the British Isles in his beloved Abbey Oxford Caravan. Tina's led a sheltered life and there are things that Chris needs her to see - the Crich Tramway Museum, the Ribblehead Viaduct, the Keswick Pencil Museum and the rolling countryside that separates these wonders in his life. But it doesn't take long for the dream to fade. Litterbugs, noisy teenagers and pre-booked caravan sites,

Unrated,

Comedy

Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Amy Jump

Dec 10, 2013

$35.7k

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All Critics (95) | Top Critics (22) | Fresh (81) | Rotten (14) | DVD (1)

It's not a perfect blend, but Ben Wheatley's film is different enough - on second thought, let's just call it what it is: weird - to warrant your attention. Your admiration, even.

June 13, 2013 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A British black comedy made in the spirit of "let's run with this demented premise till the tank is empty."

May 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Hearst Newspapers
Hearst Newspapers
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's just not quite funny enough.

May 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With a wink and a shrug, Sightseers shows us evil in all its banality.

May 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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A brilliant, deliciously wicked, and thoroughly enjoyable road film ...

May 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Darkly funny as it is, the movie has undercurrents of genuine and very British weirdness.

May 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is certainly funny, but the laughs aren't as constant as you'd hope from a film like this.

February 20, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

Uncomfortably lurching from broad slapstick to dark and sharp gore - often in the space of a single scene - Sightseers adds up to a rather jumbled whole, despite the punchlines hitting as often as they miss.

November 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

Devised by acting-writing comedy team Lowe and Oram and co-scripted by Amy Jump, director Ben Wheatley's professional and personal partner, the movie pokes fun at the social limitations of these lumpen Midlanders without sneering at or patronizing them.

November 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

An undeniable treat for lovers of morbid comedy.

July 19, 2013 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

It's definitely not for everyone, but if you can stand the stink of the human condition, Sightseers will linger in the lobes of your imagination long enough to make you laugh.

July 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Canada.com
Canada.com

Would make an apt double feature with director Bobcat Goldthwait's recent 'God Bless America,' a similar road trip-as-murder rampage comedy in which people with bad taste and annnoying habits are targeted for 'deserved' extinction.

July 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Sightseers is a brilliantly grim and reasonably amusing comedy that is also wonderfully unpredictable and constantly pushing unforeseen circumstances.

July 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Examiner.com
Examiner.com

pitch-black and funny, nearly as dismal as Kill List but played for laughs rather than horror.

July 11, 2013 Full Review Source: EricDSnider.com
EricDSnider.com

Daft and darkly hilarious, but bleak? Oh yes. Almost too bleak.

July 9, 2013 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

It's usually difficult to find serial killers who are sympathetic and even charming, but this amusing dark comedy does just that without sacrificing its moral compass.

June 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinemalogue.com
Cinemalogue.com

A quick, dry, acidic comedy that will appeal to anyone who likes horror movies or pitch-black humor.

June 12, 2013 Full Review Source: FEARnet
FEARnet

Welcome to My Camp

June 9, 2013 Full Review Source: ReviewExpress.com
ReviewExpress.com

One of the funniest, and bleakest, comedies of the season.

May 31, 2013 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

What starts out as a sunny, funny getaway soon turns hilariously dark, a fusion of tabloid sensationalism and social satire ... a royal hoot, the funniest British import since 'Shaun of the Dead.'

May 30, 2013 Full Review Source: CinemaDope
CinemaDope

Bloody good camping trip tale

May 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Herald
Boston Herald

Audience Reviews for Sightseers

Evil has a knitted jumper.

Good Dark Comedy British Film! To be honest, Sightseers isn't right for many people at all; it's what you might call a niche film. It's going to satisfy a minority audience, but those few who do relish the thought of another dark, very dark, British comedy are going to absolutely delight in it. Sightseers is woefully original, full of witty dialogue, charming characters and some of the best British Black humor I have seen in a long time if not ever. Sightseers invades the brain, it expulses laughter from the belly and at times it wriggles under the skin like white noise and scratches at the nerves. Sightseers, overall, plays out like a cross between Bonnie & Clyde and In Bruges, leading to a perfect pitch-black comedy that's not for the faint hearted.

Chris wants to show girlfriend Tina his world, but events soon conspire against the couple and their dream caravan holiday takes a very wrong turn.
October 17, 2013
MANUGINO
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

It's always painful when a promising director fails to live up to their burgeoning reputation. Through Down Terrace and Kill List, Ben Wheatley has established himself as one of the most exciting British film-makers in recent times, carving out a niche for himself in low-budget horrors and thrillers which marry unconventional storytelling to a fittingly gruesome aesthetic.

But having delivered so well with straight material, Wheatley has now come unstuck with Sightseers. While it is technically as accomplished as his previous films, and possesses great potential in its main conceit, it ultimately fulfils on far too little of its promise. What should be a really great black comedy sputters and stumbles over 85 minutes, never justifying or meeting our expectations with either its story or humour.

Sightseers is part of a long lineage of comedies build around the holiday-gone-wrong - or "sexual odyssey"-gone-wrong, if you will. Examples of this range from the infamously bawdy (Carry on Camping) to the darkly political (Mike Leigh's Nuts in May). And it's not just a parochial British trend: Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday revolves around the same basic idea of a person or persons going on holiday and leaving chaos in their wake. In other words, there is precedent for all of this, a series of beats or marks for any new director to hit.

The thing is, Wheatley has spent his entire career openly eschewing precedent. Even though his films have been set in very specific, often well-worn genres, he always goes out of his way to confound our expectations, with plot, character and visual choices that often bemuse as much as they impress. When this works, as with Kill List, he's one of Britain's most exciting directors, capable of generating a unique sense of tension, forbidding and impending doom. When it doesn't, as with Sightseers, the film ends up as a collection of bits awkwardly lumped together.

Wheatley's talent is such that I am loath to pigeon-hole him, but it may just be that comedy is not his thing. He is a very interesting and adept horror director, capable of capturing both gory brutality (Kill List) and deeply unsettling atmosphere (A Field in England). Most of all, he has a jet-black, almost misanthropic streak which manifests itself in the fates and nature of his characters, something which is naturally suited to horror. When he tries to apply the same principles but with jokes, it's either not funny or funny in a very awkward way.

The secret to making a great black comedy is to introduce dark ideas or images to an audience and then give them a reason to laugh at it by building up an empathy with the leads. In Dr. Strangelove we laugh at the impending death of all humanity because we understand the absurd motivations of Colonel Jack D. Ripper, Major Kong or General Buck Turgidson. In Heathers we laugh at the deaths of the high school students because the film keeps us focussed on the plight of Veronica Sawyer and her complex, conflicted feelings towards JD.

Sightseers' biggest problem is that both characters are pretty hateful - or at least so dislikeable that such levels of empathy become impossible. There are many films in which we are asked to empathise with serial killers (Kind Hearts and Coronets being another example), but the killers become memorable or emotionally engaging because they feel rounded and interesting. Here we are given a serial killer and a closeted, sheltered thirty-something, and all their back-story is either irritating or uninteresting. There's no real development beyond the woman becoming psychotic, and even that doesn't feel properly thought out.

What makes this so annoying is that this central relationship could have been developed perfectly well in a number of ways. With a little more effort made to explain the characters - particularly Tina's development from horror to acceptance of Chris' actions - this could have been a very effective new take on thrillers based on lovers on the run. This would have worked either as a new take on Bonnie and Clyde or as a pastiche of alienation films from the late-1960s and early-1970s, like Zabriskie Point or Easy Rider.

Alternatively, the material would have worked just as well had Wheatley played it straight, and made the story about Tina's reactions to being in love with a killer. Tina begins the film as a sheltered young woman, deeply in love with the man who will whisk her away from her overbearing mother and share with her a lot of new experiences (even if they are camping and visiting the tram museum). As the body count rises, she is torn between the horror she is caught up in and the love she has for Chris: even after what he has done, she knows handing him in will send her back to Mother, with all chance of happiness gone.

Either approach would have made for an interesting, substantial and subversive film. But since Wheatley opts for neither, what we get is a film which is awkward, sluggish and very mean-spirited. When the first killing happens, there's a real frisson to the film, as we are uncertain as to whether it was something pre-meditated by Chris or a genuine accident. But most of the subsequent murders feel flippant and unjustified, and before long the film has become rather shapeless in both its plot and its character arcs. By the last 20 minutes we're crying out for a big showdown to finish things off, and while the ending has some logic, it feels unsatisfying.

Considering the involvement of Edgar Wright at a production level, we might attempt to view Sightseers as a horror-comedy, rather than a black comedy per se. The distinction between the two, loosely speaking, is one of action vs. reaction: black comedies are usually built around protagonists doing nasty things (action), whereas horror-comedies are typically based around nasty things happening to people (reaction). But once again we draw a blank due to Wheatley's refusal to follow rules.

There are two successful approaches to making a horror-comedy. One is to start out being funny and scary simultaneously, such as The Evil Dead; the other is to start out as a comedy and then gradually build up and transition to horror, like An American Werewolf in London. Wheatley, however, opts for neither, starting out with a horror movie and then expecting us to laugh for no good reason. Rather than work hard to make us understand the characters' reasons for murder, Sightseers simply asks us to laugh at murder as if it's inherently funny.

To be fair, there are several aspects of Sightseers which are impressive, or at least capable. The film is very well shot by Wheatley's regular cinematographer Laurie Rose; he captures all the unappetising aspects of camping in great detail, and the pastel tones in the colour scheme contrast nicely with all the blood being spilled. The sound design is very good, particularly in painting a picture of the off-screen deaths, and the make-up effects are appealingly gruesome. Wheatley also uses hand-held camera very well, with the final scene on the viaduct taking on more of a vertiginous quality than would have been achieved with just a tripod.

Sightseers is a frustrating disappointment, whose technical solidity can't make up for its failings as a comedy. It squanders most if not all its opportunities to makes its characters interesting or appealing, and Wheatley's approach to comedy leaves a lot to be desired. Wheatley remains a highly talented film-maker, as A Field in England clearly demonstrates, but this is one trip that he'll quickly will want to forget.
September 15, 2013
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

A dowdy and desperate dog psychologist goes on a holiday in the English countryside with her new boyfriend, and soon notices that people who annoy him turn up dead. It has the tone of a black comedy, but the laughs are extremely subtle; it ends up like a British working class version of BADLANDS, with more relationship talk.
July 26, 2013
366weirdmovies
Greg S

Super Reviewer

After the dark crime thriller "Kill List" in 2011, writer/director Ben Wheatley has decided on a slightly lighter approach for his follow-up. Just 'slightly' mind you, as the premise of this tale is equally as dark and deranged. However, it does contain a lot of humour and will most likely remain one of the blackest comedies all year. It's also confirmation that Wheatley is definitely a talent to watch.
After accidentally killing her mother's beloved dog with a knitting needle Tina (Alice Lowe), makes a decision to leave her domineering mother and go on a caravan holiday with her new boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram). What Tina doesn't know is that Chris has a penchant for killing people who upset him. Tina soon becomes influenced by him and as they tour the English countryside, they leaves bodies in their wake at the camp sites, museums and tourist destinations that they visit.
After a brief introduction to our travelling odd-couple, Wheatley gets down to his turgid roadtrip where all manner of darkness ensues. Despite the, blacker-than-black, nature of the story he infuses it with a deadpan humour that counterbalances the events, disturbed behaviour and thought processes of the characters. After casually and callously despatching of unsuspecting, innocent victims our couple share their thoughts and warped sense of justification; at one point over dinner Tina suggests that "by reducing their life span you're reducing their omissions", to which Chris responds "so what you mean is... murder is green? I never thought of it like that". Tina is also a character who likes to have intercourse while sticking her face in a bowl of pot-pourri and wearing hand-knitted, crotchless lingerie. These are just a couple of examples of their deluded outlook and off-the-wall behaviour. Believe me, there are plenty more on their travels. What aids the film immeasurably is the two superb central performances from Steve Oram and Alice Lowe who also happen to have written the screenplay. While playing out their own characters, it shows that they fully understand the material and what's required to make them three dimensional. Meanwhile, Wheatley handles the extreme shifts in tone with absolute ease. There are some genuinely, hilarious moments that are coupled with a very twisted nature. For a film to have you laughing at it's darkness, is a testament to all involved here. Black comedies don't come much darker than this.
Having proved beforehand with "Kill List" that he could craft a sense of realism imbued with absolute horror. This time, Ben Wheatley shows excellent skill in balancing humour with an altogether different kind of horror and lunacy. It has been compared to the likes of "Natural Born Killers" and Mike Leigh's "Nuts In May" but I'd refer to this thoroughly rewarding little treat, as "Badlands" in the Midlands.

Mark Walker
April 17, 2013
MrMarakai

Super Reviewer

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