Tina has been trapped in a dull existence of looking after her manipulative mother, and a guilty conscience since an unfortunate knitting-related pet death. But new boyfriend Chris offers the promise of escape, taking her away from it all via the freedom of a touring caravan and an "erotic odyssey", taking in the attractions of the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. But it soon becomes apparent that Chris not only has romantic tendencies, but psychopathic ones too. And Tina isn't exactly put off by them.
Sightseers feels like a Mike Leigh film, only much darker. It appears to be at least partly improvised, but never feels like it's rambling or dragging on. Whether it's scripted or not, it contains some brilliantly quotable lines. It combines the mundaneness of a British holiday (caravans, wet weather, knitting, museums, unerotic sex) with cold-blooded serial killing. And we end up with something like Natural Born Killers in anoraks and hiking boots.
Aside from the dialogue, the film's humour also comes across in some amusing little details. Like the sexy crotchless lingerie that's been hand-knitted in pink wool; the dog psychology diplomas on Tina's wall; or a character trying to write a note with a six-foot long novelty pencil.
A great soundtrack of mostly 80s pop music is featured, and some of the photography of the English countryside is surprisingly beautiful. The frequent use of a hand-held camera adds to the sense of improvisation and the unpredictability of the characters.
There isn't an abundance of gore, but the few effects are very well done indeed. And the instances of violence are actually quite shocking. The murder sequences are cleverly edited, making creative use of music and fast-cutting between simultaneous events, disorientating and disturbing the viewer.
The characters are portrayed well and are interesting and three-dimensional. Chris might be a murderer, but he justifies this with his own (distorted) moral code. The people he attacks are those who threaten the happiness of the holiday, whether they are inconsiderate litterbugs or smug middle-class types. Tina starts off as almost child-like, but as the story unfolds, the increasing violence appears to liberate her. She doesn't need the moral code that Chris uses to justify his actions. And as Tina moves further from her feelings of being trapped, Chris seems to be moving the other way.
Eventually the story closes with a final 'twist' which some viewers might see coming, but I still thought it was apt and a satisfying ending. Overall I really enjoyed Sightseers. I thought the blend of humour and horror worked well together, and I found the characters intriguing and likeable. I'm looking forward to watching this again sometime.
Trailer (warning - reveals most of the best bits)