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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 14, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 24
Grizzly Sightseers is a satirically twisted gem
Arts & Entertainment
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Grizzly Sightseers is a satirically twisted gem

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

SIGHTSEERS
Opens June 14
Considering the man behind the camera is Down Terrace and Kill List impresario Ben Wheatley, you sort of know going in that Sightseers isn't going to be your typical misbegotten-road-trip romantic comedy. On the surface the clichés are all there - quietly lonely Tina (Alice Lowe) breaking out of her shell, as well as out of the shadow of her domineering mother Carol (Eileen Davies), agreeing to go on a caravan trip with boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram). Mishaps ensue on the road, of course, the pair drifting more and more into one another's arms as things systematically fall to pieces.

But the mayhem isn't exactly what you anticipate it to be, Chris something of a maniacal sociopath while Tina is so sheltered and unsure of herself she ends up looking at many of his more murderous acts as dramatic romantic gestures. The movie is like Two for the Road crossed with God Bless America with a serious dose of Serial Mom thrown in for good measure, the resultant motion picture a devilishly sinister observational satiric enterprise that's as sweet and sentimental as it is out for blood.

Originally, stars Lowe and Oram had meant their scenario for television but for obvious reasons they discovered their ideas to be a tough sell. They quickly refashioned them into a screenplay and took them to Wheatley, and truth be told I can't think of a more qualified filmmaker to bring all of this freewheeling bloodily disturbed nonsense to life. With an assist from frequent Wheatley collaborator Amy Jump (who gets an additional material credit), the resultant film is a smartly spirited evisceration of modern mores and attitudes, and even if the tone is decidedly British the universality of what is being stated is impossible to miss.

MURDER JUBILEE
Things begin innocuously enough, the mayhem beginning before the pair have even hit the road. As for the first murder, the way it is presented is so blasé, Chris running the man over with his trailer getting no more than a slap on the wrist from the police for doing so. But things quickly escalate and it begins to take less and less for a potential victim to do something deemed uncouth or improper in the eyes of those passing summary judgment on whether or not they'll go on living. It's fairly horrible and yet most of the time it's hard not to relate to why the road trippers' dander has been raised to such a fevered pitch, making for an uncomforting dichotomy fitting the tone and purpose of the material perfectly.

The movie doesn't have the same visual mystery or ingenuity of Wheatley's stupendous Kill List, and the characters for obvious reasons aren't especially deep. More than that, some of the targets grow increasingly obvious as things progress to their somewhat inevitable conclusion, Lowe, Oram, and Jump not necessarily aiming as high as they potentially could have.

But Sightseers is extremely funny start to finish, producing numerous laugh-out-loud moments that took me by complete surprise. Lowe and Oram are a great pair of understated hams, their outlook on the killing spree entirely unexpected and, in its own dysfunctional way, actually kind of oddly wholesome. This movie shows once again that Wheatley is an inspired talent willing to bend genre to his will come what may, this cult-favorite-in-the-making a sick and twisted gem overflowing with gory inspiration dripping from every single one of its razor-sharp incisors.

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