Currently in production and flying the flag for cream of the crop independent horror is Simeon Halligan’s White Settlers, starring genre fave Pollyanna Mcintosh – with whom most of you are more than likely familiar due to her spectacular performance in the titular role in Lucky Mckee’s The Woman.
Also starring fellow up-and-coming British talent Lee Williams (“The Tudors”) and produced by the people behind Manchester horror festival Grimmfest, not to mention penned by BAFTA nominated writer Ian Fenton, White Settlers looks like it could be the much awaited breath of life that British horror needs.
While working on set, Pollyanna was gracious enough to take some time to speak with us between takes and let us all know what horrors lie in store in this tale of a young couple trying for an idyllic life in the country that soon find themselves besieged by unspeakable terrors…
Aaron Williams: For those yet to hear about this – what is White Settlers?
Pollyanna McIntosh: It’s a feature, it’s going to be coming out early next year, and it’s a thriller with some horror aspects. It’s about Ed and Sarah, who live in London and move to the country for the idyllic, peaceful, pastoral life. They want to convert this old barn house and turn it into a B&B, they want to have kids. They’re a young married couple and ready for that stage of life… Ed is a little less ready than her in the beginning. As they’re settling into their new home on the first night, she’s getting a bit – she’s a little fragile and a little vulnerable – she’s one of those who hears bumps in the night when they’re maybe not there so Ed doesn’t really believe her. As it progresses, he has no choice but to realize that they’re in the middle of a nightmare.
AW: What attracted you to this role?
PM: It’s great to play a lead. The only lead I’ve played above a male before is being in The Woman, and that was a pretty big challenge in every scene. I just felt that the script is really strong, the writing is really strong. I’ve read a lot of thrillers – and to be honest I’ve read a lot of bad ones – but this one I couldn’t put it down. Ian Fenton, who wrote it, has done this tightly wrought thriller; and I think if we have done our job right, me and Lee Williams… and he’s great – I’m kind of used to playing quite strong, controlled characters, and she’s a little more vulnerable.
AW: According to the film’s Twitter account the shoot has been pretty rough…
PM: It has been tough! It’s probably the maddest schedule I’ve ever seen! We’ve been shooting for weeks on a low budget with a tight crew so it’s always going to be challenging, but – and I’m not just saying this – the crew is amazing! There’s a lot of experienced people on this; I think the script has attracted some great talent. Even though one minute I’m scrabbling on my knees for an entire night, next minute I’m screaming like a banshee, I’m doing lots of stunts, I’m hanging out of windows – it’s intense stuff! I feel very committed to this, and I feel like we’re all in the same boat. I’m enjoying myself, I really am!
AW: How would you compare this to your other roles?
PM: Like I say, the vulnerability of her is something that was a nice challenge for me. I don’t normally play romantic leads so that’s kind of cool for me. It’s funny; there’s something about being tall, dark and strong-featured – I’ve normally lost a child or I’m a heroin addict or a Russian kick-ass or I’m covered in shit wreaking havoc! (Laughs) So it’s a departure for me, and I like that.
AW: How did you end up in this role?
PM: I met Simeon and Rachel, who is producing this, at Grimmfest because they were at this great horror festival in Manchester and they’d screened The Woman there. I didn’t know that when I went up there for a little short which I did called Him Indoors with Reece Shearsmith, which is available on FEARnet, for those who want to see it, and is a really lovely piece. It’s a sort of dark comedy horror and Reece I’ve been a fan of for years. I think he was just incredible in Psychoville and League of Gentlemen. Paul Davis directed that, who made the documentary Beware the Moon about An American Werewolf in London, and has since come under the wing of John Landis a lot. We made this little passion project, this short and it was playing at Grimmfest and because of The Woman having a good following there, they asked me to come up with Him Indoors and do a Q&A and also host the Q&A for Ross Noble and the rest of his cast for Stitches. I got to know them really well, and they said, “We wanna work with you and probably send you some stuff’!”
I read a script they sent before – again it was a really good script, but I really didn’t think it was right for me. It just wasn’t the right time. Then I got hold of White Settlers, and it just gripped me! I was discussing this film over Skype with Sim and Rachel in January so it’s been quite a long lead in, and he’s as committed to it as I am. We collaborate well, I think. He’s given me quite a bit of freedom with the character, and I really appreciate that. He’s got a hell of a ship to sail, you know? He’s keeping his cool, and he and the DP work really well together; the DP is fantastic. It’s just nice to watch him really enjoying himself. He’s always very close to the camera, always looking at the shot so in many ways he’s the unseen character in the film.
AW: What do you think sets this apart from similar films that have come before it?
PM: I think what’s exciting for me is that it’s British, it’s written by a Scot, I’m Scottish, it’s set in Scotland. I’ve been really lucky to do some great Scottish projects recently with Burke and Hare and Bob Servant Independent, which is the BBC show I did. I think it’s really cool for the Scots to see that and that aspect of it. It’s kind of got aspects of Eden Lake and Ils about it. I think the scary house genre is a lot of fun to play with. It’s also got a sense of realism about it, which is again quite fun for the horror genre. I’ll just say that much – I have to be careful about what I say because I don’t want to give too much away! I think it’s got something for everybody basically; I think it will keep everybody on their toes, which is what I like when I visit the movies.
Many thanks to Pollyanna for taking the time out to talk with us, and keep your eyes right here on Dread Central for more on White Settlers when we have it!
It’s Ed and Sarah’s first night at their new home, an isolated farmhouse on the Scottish border. This should be a new beginning away from their stressful London lives. And at first it is as they enjoy supper al fresco at sunset and a riverside skinny dip. But as darkness falls, things become eerie. Sarah suspects they’re not alone; Ed goes to investigate, and the evening swiftly becomes a nightmare. It dawns on them that they do not belong there. And they certainly aren’t welcome either…
White Settlers comes on like a supernatural terror ride with the classic ‘bumps in the night’ scenario of floorboard creaks and shadows. But the moment Ed tells a genuinely frightened Sarah to get a grip, the film bluntly changes direction. And here is where the game changes. Think Straw Dogs meets Sinister.
This really could happen to you.
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