Dec 3 2012 By Flossie Topping
Some have described him as the lovechild of Quentin Tarantino and Mike Leigh.
Others guess he’s the result of a satanic orgy between Martin Scorsese and Ken Loach on the Wicker Man Island. But if there’s one thing you can say about British director Ben Wheatley, it’s that his films (Down Terrace and Kill List) have shown us the recipe for cult status, and a distinctive style worthy of turning heads.
It’s hard to categorise his latest film, Sightseers. On one hand, it’s a comedy (and a pitch black one at that), but it’s also a road movie, a horror, a drama and a romance, too.
Its writers, comedians Alice Lowe and Steve Oram star as the lead actors, happy in love couple Tina and Chris. Tina leads a sheltered life with her dependent mum but agrees to go on a weeklong holiday with Chris in his beloved caravan around the British Isles.
It is when they are touring their first destination, Crich tramway museum, that Tina finds Chris has a violent distain for other people, and a blood lust that must be satisfied. What was a romantic break for both of them becomes a serial killing spree around the National Trust hot spots of middle England.
What’s most chilling about Sightseers, is how normal the characters seem. Tina and Chris are the least likely killers the cinema has ever seen and their victims seem to be killed for banal reasons like littering on buses and taking part in loud hen parties.
What I enjoyed most about Sightseers was its distinctly British flavour. This is not just an advert for staycations, but a celebration of everything that British people should be proud of, including pagan heritage sites, as Wheatley is keen to show. He has recently admitted his fascination with the occult:
"It feels like there’s something lurking in British culture," he says. "Everywhere you go on these islands there’s weird stone circles and magical lay lines and weird mushrooms and all that kind of life that we just don’t talk about any more. Ideas that pre-date organised religion. I’m a big fan of folk dancing and Morris men and maypoles and all that kind of stuff as well."
But there’s also something of zombie favourite Shaun of The Dead here, and indeed, its director Edgar Wright co-produces. You could also draw comparisons with Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May, the comical story of an idyllic camping holiday that goes wrong, A League of Gentleman or Natural Born Killers. The list goes on, only it shouldn’t: Sightseers is one of a kind, and may well be the best British film we’ve seen all year.