‘Sightseers’ director Ben Wheatley tries to make people laugh again

Director Ben Wheatley goes from the gory horror "Kill List" to the gory comedy "Sightseers" Credit: X
Director Ben Wheatley goes from the gory horror “Kill List” to the gory black comedy “Sightseers.”
Credit: X

Chances are if you’ve heard the name Ben Wheatley, it’s because he last directed “Kill List,” an indescribable mash-up of horror, crime and kitchen sink English drama, with an unmistakably macabre sense of humor — even when one already battered character’s head is repeatedly pounded with a hammer. His latest, “Sightseers,” is a bit nicer, in that it’s an English camping comedy about a couple (Alice Lowe and Steve Oram) who occasionally murder strangers for no reason.

“I think they were worried I was going to make ‘Kill List 2,’” Wheatley recalls, of a project which existed before he came aboard. He points out he has a history in comedy, on television and in viral videos. “I know how to structure a gag. Comedy’s like a flame that you have to feed with fuel. If it dies it’s very hard to get back. After the hammer scene in ‘Kill List,’ I thought no one would ever laugh again.”

Doing a film with comparatively minor head trauma — although there is some — was a relief after making what he describes as “a really horrible horror film,” at least in the sense of its increasing bleakness, and his having to talk about it at length while promoting it. “I made that film and it made people really unhappy.

“I thought it would be nice if they came out having a laugh and were cheered by something I made,” he says. “It’s not the happiest comedy, ‘Sightseers,’ but it’s a step in the right direction.”

“Sightseers” swings back and forth between comedy — both Lowe and Oram, who wrote the script together, have a deep history in British comedy — and horrible gore, as when one pesky rambler’s face is smashed in. “It’s got a lot in common with [Paul] Verhoeven and ‘[Monty] Python’ stuff,” according to him. “[Terry] Gilliam does that often, going from stuff that’s really horrible to stuff that’s funny and satirical, then back to horror. You feel like you’re being pulled and pushed around. I like that feeling.”

Although he offers that the comedy and horror can become one. In “Sightseers,” the victims are often thoroughly nice. He says, “The more innocent the victim, the funnier it is.”

Wheatley also offers up a theory that comics can, sometimes at least, make better dramatic actors than serious thespians. “The difference between a comedian and an actor is a comedian has the life experience of stand-up comedy. They’ve died in front of audiences a lot. They know what sadness is — for f—ing real. And it’s their own material they’ve died with. That is more personal than being in a play that’s s—.”

It ties into his view on humanity. “I think people are funny, generally,” he states. “Everyone has a sense of humor. They certainly have a sense of humor when things are going wrong. When you make films that are very po-faced, where no one has a laugh, they don’t seem real. People aren’t like that. People aren’t stern and miserablist all the time.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.