Ben Wheatley’s 2011 film KILL LIST left viewers’ mouths wide open, and was easily one of the most shocking and well done films of the year. A lot of people were wondering what trick Wheatley had up his sleeve next, and he’s definitely surprised quite a few people with his most recent film, SIGHTSEERS, a comedy/horror-ish film in which a couple go on a road trip and end up leaving a hilariously bloody trail behind them. It’s an extremely funny and dark comedy with quite a few twists. Wheatley was nice enough to chat with Icons of Fright for a bit, in which he discussed SIGHTSEERS, along with a couple of his next projects as well. Read on!
How’s it going today?
Good. Fire away.
SIGHTSEERS is definitely a different film, tonally, from KILL LIST. Was it an intentional choice to make a film that was a lot more lighthearted yet still as bloody as KILL LIST?
Absolutely, yeah. I had actually agreed to do SIGHTSEERS before I made KILL LIST, but I had it in my head that I was going to make a quite hard horror film and wanted to do something straight after that was more lighthearted, so primarily I wouldn’t repeat myself. I didn’t want to get known as “that guy who makes really horrific nasty movies”. I think it’s kind gives diminishing returns as well if you keep trying to top yourself on terrifying people, then you have to go quite a ways the second time around, so I just figured I’d take a break from it, and make a comedy.
Yeah definitely. Your two leads actors, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, wrote the screenplay for SIGHTSEERS, was it easy for you to put your own stamp on it, all while trying to respect what they had written? Was there room for improv as well?
Yeah, when I took the film on, I saw the chance to do a lot of improvisation, and everyone knew that going in, so we shot a LOT of stuff. The script was also rewritten by Amy Jump, who had done KILL LIST, so it was pretty much material that was close to my heart, same thing with the other movies that I’ve done.
One of things that really stood out to me about the film, is that though he’s committing murders and all, the character of Chris is very likable, and you find yourself rooting for him. Was it important to make his character sympathetic and likable, as opposed to someone who just kills people?
Yeah, I think if you’re not sympathetic towards those characters, you tire of them, and it’s important to get the full emotional range and for them to be liked by the audience, they needed to be rounded and as human as possible. That’s sort of what I was thinking, that’s why there’s a certain amount of time at the beginning of the film, where you really get to know the two of them and get invested in them. Otherwise, if they just started by bludgeoning someone’s face in, then they’d be harder to sell, as humans. When you see that Chris has dreams and hopes, and things he wants to do, you really hope that he succeeds, because he’s not much different than us…except for that he kills people.
It also impressed me how Tiny ended up being more sympathetic towards the beginning and kind of ends up becoming more of what Chris is than Chris, was it important for her to go through that as well?
Yeah, absolutely. His position doesn’t really chance throughout the film, but Tina’s character changes dramatically. She grows and changes into something else. I hope that THAT journey is the heart of the film really, that and the relationship between the two of them being a young couple early on in their life, trying to figure out how the other one thinks, and what they like or don’t like.
You’ve got a lot of different projects in the works right now, such as FREAKSHIFT as well as your upcoming project for HBO, are you able to discuss those two projects with us at all?
Yeah, I mean FREAKSHIFT will hopefully go this year, we’re just waiting on casting really. It’s kind of a sci-fi project, kind of like HILL STREET BLUES versus monsters, lots of shotguns, explosions and action. The HBO project is early still, I’m just writing that at the moment, so we’ll probably have to wait a couple years for that. It has to go through various processes, like being written, going through development, then they’ll make the pilot and eventually decided if they want to make the series or not. That’s sort of a long haul.
Awesome. Well right on Ben, it’s definitely been a pleasure speaking with you, thanks for taking the time to chat.
You too, bye.
SIGHTSEERS opens at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre in West L.A. on May 10th via IFC FILMS.