WHITE SETTLERS (2014)
Directed by Simeon Halligan
Directed by Simeon Halligan, who previously directed horror film Splintered, WHITE SETTLERS is a home invasion survival thriller that couldn’t be any more current than now, especially with the debate over whether Scotland should be independent from the UK or not. Because of its content, WHITE SETTLERS has been dubbed as the ‘Scottish referendum horror’, with some people even mistaking the film as funded propoganda from both for and against parties, depending on which side you believe in. Despite its controversy, WHITE SETTLERS is a good ol’ fashioned horror thriller with no political allegiances.
Time and time again the idea of a family being harassed in their own home has been put to film. Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs is the first film that comes to mind when watching this film but White Settlers has an identity of its own. Though it may be retreading a worn path, it brings its own ideas and executes the story so simply yet brilliantly, that it’s an absolute pleasure to watch from start to finish. Simeon Halligan has shown that you don’t necessarily need to break the mould to make a great film, you just have to use the ideas wisely and create a solid story from them, which is what he has done. He’s taken the idea, a screenplay from writer Ian Fenton, of not belonging (which we can all relate to regardless of your place of origin) and made his own unique vision on film.
Scottish actress Pollyanna McIntosh stars as English city girl Sarah whilst Lee Williams plays her husband Ed. Sarah is a sensitive, thoughtful soul whilst Ed comes off as a bit of a cynical smart arse at times, especially when the couple view the house and later on in the film when Sarah is startled by bumps in the night. Though Ed acts as the tough guy in the movie, it’s Sarah who’s the bravest character of the two as she shows strength and courage throughout the ordeal, summoning all she can once her survival instincts kick in. The two create a realistic partnership and show the different sides of a relationship, from its saucy moments to the bickering arguments, prior to their torment. This is very much Pollyanna’s show though, with the film focused upon her character for much of the movie. She carries the story magnificently with her character’s determination and strong will harking back to her role in Lucky McKee’s The Woman in which her survival skills were once again put to the test.
White Settlers could have easily ventured down the torture porn route but instead it plays out in a very truthful, raw and emotional way. The film isn’t gratuitious at all, and playing it down is what makes it such a fantastic and enjoyable film. It doesn’t need gore to gain an audience, the story is what matters. That being said, horror fans will enjoy the suspense, and the bit of blood which is shed will make viewers wince.
Shot in the wilds of the countryside, though not actually the Scottish borders, the primal location makes a fine environment for the survival aspect of White Settlers to take place. It also works as a sharp contrast to what Sarah and Ed have left behind and whether they truly deserve to be there. The dense woodland and cold brick farmhouse can only protect the couple so much, and their lack of familiarity with their surroundings only serves to ramp up the tension even more.
Traditionally filmed and edited (i.e. no shaky cam), with some stunning shots of the countryside, White Settlers will make you see those tranquil surroundings in a different light. A solid, entertaining horror survival thriller.