• Unrated, 1 hr. 38 min.
  • Comedy
  • Directed By:
    Ben Wheatley
    In Theaters:
    May 10, 2013 Limited
    On DVD:
    Dec 10, 2013
  • IFC Films


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Sightseers Reviews

Page 1 of 26

Super Reviewer

October 17, 2013
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.
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

August 27, 2013
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.

Super Reviewer

July 26, 2013
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.
Mark W

Super Reviewer

April 17, 2013
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
Carlos M

Super Reviewer

March 30, 2013
A detestable crap that forces us to follow for eighty-eight minutes a couple of hateful psychopaths in a sick story that wants to be a very dark comedy and make fun of their gruesome atrocities - but everything is just too much bad taste to be remotely funny.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

November 26, 2012
Sightseers is the ultimate black comedy. That is it is very black and very funny in a surprisingly equal measure. I don't think I've seen a film like it really, I've seen many funny horror films and horror films that are very funny but this is out there on its own. I suppose it's closer to the sort of thing done in certain surreal comedy sketch shows these days but a brave and accomplished feature version. I was shocked and amused in equal measure which surprised me as I prepared myself to hate it. The writers were also the main leads which I think was key, Low and Oram had to play the characters to make them real. I was lucky enough to see this at a preview screening before release with a Q&A session with Low, Oram and director Ben Wheatley and they put all of my initial thoughts about this film to rest quite quickly. The film is a reaction to the silly things people say in relationships, the stupid lyrics we hear in love songs and the stupid things people do for the ones they love but also because it's a funny idea and it's about time we saw something new. I would have failed miserably if it hadn't have been funny but luckily it is very funny and very much worth a watch. The ending is wickedly funny.

Super Reviewer

December 2, 2012
Director Wheatley won many admirers with his tense horror 'Kill List' last year. The story of two recession hit ex-squaddies who turn to contract killing for a shadowy organisation, it showed Wheatley was a talent to keep an eye on. Here was a film-maker who understood how to get under our skin, referencing classic seventies horrors like 'The Wicker Man', 'Race With the Devil' and 'The Omen' while creating something thoroughly contemporary. Though I was impressed with the manner in which he created a suffocating tension, I felt his previous work ultimately lead to an anti-climax. The same can be said for his latest, a black comedy, though one with horror elements.
Lowe and Oram are brilliant as a sociopath and his impressionably timid girlfriend. They set off for a week's holiday through some of middle England's less glamorous locales, stopping off to visit museums based on such diverse subjects as trams and pencils. Unbeknownst to his partner at first, Oram is on a killing spree, finding various ways of justifying his actions, often in a contradictory manner. His first victim is a litterbug while later he kills a rambler who complains that the couple are spoiling a tourist sight by not cleaning up after their dog. When Lowe discovers his secret she too embarks on a killing frenzy, though is much clumsier about covering her tracks, thus straining the relationship.

I'd be lying if I claimed I didn't find myself cracking up laughing at many points in Wheatley's film. Lowe and Oram are two skilled comic performers, combining whip crack timing with a physical awkwardness both amusing and endearing. It's been said there's no such thing as a cheap laugh but I have to disagree and this film backs up my view. Much of the amusement comes not from the script but the situation. Were you to watch a documentary about a pencil museum, for example, I suspect you would find it equally amusing. This sort of mocking humor is milked dry for the first hour, leaving you wondering exactly where this is all leading. The answer is nowhere in particular. This is a road trip which starts off well but ultimately finds itself rambling in a directionless manner. If you long for a working class British take on 'American Psycho', I suggest 2009's 'Tony' over this.
Joey S

Super Reviewer

January 26, 2013
Although Sightseers is never boring and has a wonderful soundtrack, it lacks the laughs or scares necessary to make this a successful horror-comedy. Ben Wheatley is very talented as a director, but he might be better off making psychological thrillers like Kill List than comedies.
Luke E

Super Reviewer

August 12, 2012
I was glad that booking this halarious black comedy at the Melbourne International Film Festival was so worth it. The story is centered around an odd couple; Chris (Steve Oram); who takes his girlfriend Tina (Alice Lowe) around the british towns of rural England for inspiration for a book he's writing, However their circumstances take unusual turns until things go horribly wrong. I may of heard about director Ben Weatley's earlier films' but haven't caught up yet. This film however show he's a skilled filmaker able to bring a promising film like this to viewers of adult comedy. Sightseers is woefully original, full of witty dialouge, charming characters and some of the best British Black Humour I have seen in a long time if not ever. Theres so many Laugh Out Loud moments I just really feel that this film should be given a limited release in Australia. Its was such a great surprise, and I do highly recomend this little recent british cinema.
Nicolas K

Super Reviewer

May 18, 2013
Ben Wheatley drew my attention with his last outing 'Kill List', a twisted layered horror film and was very keen to see his follow up. This time around the horror is portrayed through a very dark and sinister British "comedy". The lead characters are delightfully wicked in a story well woven and with a wonderful build up and a brilliant ending. Can't wait to see what Ben will bring us next.
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

December 2, 2012
Sightseers is disturbing, funny and instantly quotable - British Film in the very best sense!
David S

Super Reviewer

February 23, 2014
A brilliant black comedy that finds Wheatley hitting the perfect balance between his loose film-making style and a sense of scale that has been missing from his previous films. The performances from Lowe and Oram are very well observed and you can tell that they have a history together prior to the film. The film cleverly lulls you into a false sense, suggesting at first that we're closer in style to Wheatley's debut 'Down Terrace' but once on the road the observations of the two and reactions to the havoc they create brings on the comedy. You can't help but like the couple despite the terrible things they do. Definitely my favourite Wheatley film so far and one I'd like to return to in the future.
Marcus W

Super Reviewer

September 25, 2013
Not funny or horrifying or interesting. Couldn't even be bothered to finish it.
Francisco  G.
Francisco G.

Super Reviewer

April 2, 2013
A beautifully shot and well acted dark comedy gory flick, Sightseers just runs out of ideas way too quickly. It still manages to have some fun moments until the end and it's interesting to be put onto the role of these characters since you're never quite sure what to feel towards them. A bit more polish or less running time could've helped the film immensily, but this moody, unconfortable and quirky experience has a lot to absorb to be dismissed and is again, proof that Ben Wheatley will always have something interesting to say.

Super Reviewer

February 18, 2013
Black adventure comedy from left field, knurly plot and oddball characters.
July 9, 2014
while i wasnt a huge fan of kill list, i still respected its dark ominous tone and that it didn't hold back at all, hence i was interested to see wheatleys next film, while this has a more comedic tone and not a mystery, it's still just as bloody and macabre, again it doesnt play it safe at all, and is quite unpredictable, all the way up to the final shot, the 2 leads have great chemistry and have good screen presence, it proves that wheatley def has skill and ill always be interested to see what he directs
February 8, 2014
From the director of the masterful Kill List, Sightseers is a British black comedy with horror elements that follows a couple touring the English countryside in his caravan. Funny in a thoroughly brutal way, Sightseers is in essence a dark vacation comedy--it's National Lampoon's Vacation if Chevy Chase's psychotic breakdown had real, life-threatening consequences. It is a film about a vanished pastoral world and one couple's inability to find tranquility even away from the city and the suburbs. It delves into the darkness festering beneath the surface, but it makes us laugh as our protagonists encounter all manner of wankers, douchebags, and idiots. I won't say anymore other than to close by saying Wheatley almost achieves an almost perfect blend of satirical comedy and horror
January 4, 2014
A hilarious dark comedy that is kind of like the British version of "God Bless America". Side-splittingly funny, I just wish we'd get some lighter, more optimistic comedies a bit more often.
December 24, 2013
A bizarre and often hilarious dark comedy about the nature of evil... Okay, maybe it's not that deep, but, man, was I having a good time. Even if the film goes off the rails (albeit in the direction the train was heading), I didn't care, because this movie took its bizarre premise to its natural end.

The Good: Ben Wheatley - This film is so focused in what it wants to be that it has to be due to the focused direction of Ben Wheatley. The visual style he creates, the dark humor he uses, and the focus on characters is so wonderful that this film is near impossible to resist.

Lowe and Oram - The chemistry between these two is palpable, even if you can't quite understand it. Both of them seem to really understand their characters, and we have a fun time watching them slowly reveal their natures. Their both more than a collection of several quirks, they both feel like real people, who are just weird and probably evil.

The humor - Now, it might not be for everyone, but this film had me cracking up. It went a direction I never thought it would, and I was with it for every twist and turn.

The Bad: Nothing to talk about here.

The Smugly (Movie snob nitpicks): The end - It goes a little off the rails, and, sure, it goes in the same direction that the movie had been heading the whole time. I just didn't enjoy seeing where it went. However, I can't fault it too much for this, because we all knew what we were in for.
July 26, 2013
Oh that British wit! A dry, dark and disturbingly demented British comedy from director Ben Wheatley (Kill List), Sightseers is the story of the world's most boring and odd sociopath (Alice Lowe) on holiday with her equally boring and odd sociopathic boyfriend (Steve Oram). Tina is a socially awkward and sheltered thirty-something knitting dog lover living at home with her meddling mother and Chris is an outgoing yet socially awkward nerd-ish eccentric who cannot wait to take his girlfriend to his most favorite places in the world (well, the Lake District of England anyway) ... which includes both a tram and a pencil museum. The two revel in her new-found freedom (she knitted special underwear for the occasion) and the open road ... until they have to deal with other people. Chris has a problem with careless litterbugs, braggarts and old people while Tina has a problem with anybody calling her out or looking at her man. When Tina gets into a verbal confrontation over doggie defecation (her dog did it), Chris defends her honor ... to the death. Nobody is safe when these two are around as there has never been a "bloody holiday" like this one before! These two are meant for each other ... or are they? Will they annoy one another to death or will love conquer all? The humor in Sightseers is as dark is it gets -- it is nearly pitch black -- and it is very rare to actually enjoy a film with two such nasty and selfish main characters. They are fiendishly flawed to the Nth degree but I couldn't stop watching.
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