Sightseers (Ben Wheatley, 2012)
Now this is a Ben Wheatley comedy (viz. Down Terrace review), a movie that skewers the conventions of the rom-com, the road movie, and (the spoiler alerts begin thick and fast—when will you learn to heed that stop sign at the tops of my reviews?) the intelligent serial killer film—by “intelligent” here I’m talking Kalifornia and Man Bites Dog instead of, say, Final Exam or The Burning, by the by—while still manageing to remain true to every last one of them. Combine that with Wheatley’s eye for a script containing bang-up characters and you’ve got… a movie that’s half muddled mess and half brilliant, at least. It is, to date, my favorite Ben Wheatley movie by a whisker.
Plot: Tina (The World’s End‘s Alice Lowe) has recently started dating Chris (Kill List‘s Steve Oram—also note that Lowe and Oram co-wrote), and the two of them have decided to take a caravan holiday around England to see some of the more offbeat sites. Things start off swimmingly, but take a nasty turn when Chris accidentally backs the caravan over an obnoxious tourist (Down Terrace‘s Tony Way) who’d been on a tram tour with them just before. From there, Murphy’s Law begins to reign, and every stop they make is plagued by weirder, dumber, more obnoxious people.
The reason that stop sign is up there is that it is impossible to even begin to talk about this movie without spoilers, since everything worth talking about occurs once all that gets off the ground. More importantly, these characters really start coming alive once this movie becomes Natural Born Caravaners. Chris is a fun guy, you’d want to go drinking with him, but once you know what’s going on there’s no elision at all in your thinking; it works perfectly, aside from one scene that is liable to jar if you weren’t paying really close attention earlier. But, well, did you ever read Robb White’s Up Periscope? (If you didn’t, go do it now, I’ll wait.) There’s a scene early on in the book where a nasty drill sergeant has revenge got upon him by the recruits he’s been training when they build a trap inside a trap, and he falls for it but good. Tina is the trap inside Chris’ trap, and it is the evolution of Tina’s character throughout the film that makes it as absorbing as it is. You may not realize what you’re getting until you actually get it. And then comes that final scene, which manages to be both shocking and utterly predictable, and I still don’t know how that works. This is good stuff, this; Wheatley really started coming into his own as a filmmaker right about here, methinks. *** ½