Twitter Plot Summary: Two West Midland residents head off on a sightseeing holiday, featuring pencil museums, viaducts and murder.
Five Point Summary:
1. Redditch is on the map! Literally.
2. Now that’s how to kill a dog!
3. Bit of a short temper. But then, he is ginger.
4. Are you supposed to actually use those big pencils?
5. Nice way to finish.
How many other films can you think of that open with a shot of Redditch on a map? And how many films can you think of that star people with full-on Birmingham accents? If it’s an exercise in emphasising the mundanity of local UK life and the slightly less than exotic holidays that are available to most of us, then it’s a job well done. If nothing else these mundane beginnings provide stark contrast to what is to come, and rather thankfully don’t poke fun at the locations themselves – that would be too obvious, for one, and also completely unfair. Taking a sightseeing trip around some of the UK’s many less obvious tourist destinations, including a pencil factory and a tramway museum, is an inspired decision. Not forgetting the plethora of caravan and camping parks that litter this great nation of ours – they also feature prominently.
Taking an inherently dull subject matter and turning into an entertaining film is a difficult process, yet Alice Lowe and Steve Oram’s script perfectly captures the mundanity of British life and mixes it expertly with the serial killer genre. Chris and Tina are in a relationship and head off on a sight seeing tour of Britain, much to the chagrin of Tina’s overbearing mother. All seems normal until Chris is visibly enraged at a man who refuses to pick up the litter he drops at the tramway museum. The logical reaction, of course, is to run him over with your caravan. We’ve all had similar thoughts at some point or another, I’m sure. Tina is surprised at first, less so when it quickly transpires that it wasn’t an accident, but once on board with the idea it turns out that she’s just as twisted as he is.
Of course, once she joins in with the insanity he reacts badly. It’s one thing for a man to randomly kill folks, but Grud forbid if a woman gets in on the act. In fact it soon becomes clear that she’s more twisted than he is, and no wonder – still living with her Mum, a bedroom that hasn’t changed since her youth, a poisonous relationship with her mother and no sign of escape until the ginger, bearded and balding Midlander enters her life and whisks her away for a holiday. She’s also experiencing guilt for the inadvertent death of her dog Poppy (one of the film’s highlights), resulting in her retreating into herself and even kidnapping someone else’s dog.
There isn’t a huge amount of depth to the story itself – what we do get is a slow drip feed of information about our two lead characters and how their minds work as we move from basic set-up to the next. With each death we learn something more about each of them. Chris, the frustrated writer, the ginger man with a short temper when it comes to litterbugs, pretentious middle class types and ramblers getting up in his face about dog mess. Tina, meanwhile, is deeply jealous of anybody who draws Chris’ attention away from her, be they male or female, and her part in instigating the various deaths stems from this.
Ben Wheatley’s direction deserves kudos, if only because it’s the sort of twisted idea that’s right up his street – I doubt many other directors would’ve been able to pull this off quite as effectively. Whilst I’m of the opinion that the final act meanders a little – most of the meaty goodness happens in the middle act – it’s ultimately still an effective film overall and the kills are both impressive and graphic.