Screamfest L.A. 2014: Director Simeon Halligan Talks US Premiere of White Settlers

White Settlers

With director Simeon Halligan’s UK horror feature White Settlers scheduled for its US premiere this coming Tuesday, October 21, at 7:30 pm during the prestigious Screamfest Film Festival, read on for our exclusive interview with him, and have a look at some stills and the film’s official trailer.

Written by Ian Fenton, the suspense thriller White Settlers (according to the official synopsis) pitches the modern urbanite dream of starting a simple life in the country against the possibility of a very different and terrifying reality. Set in the borders of Scotland – it’s Ed and Sarah’s first night at their new home, an isolated farmhouse. This should be a new beginning away from their stressful London lives. And at first it is; come sunset they fall in love all over again as they wander in the beautiful Scottish landscape. But as darkness falls, Sarah suspects they’re not alone. Ed goes to investigate, and quickly the evening becomes a nightmare. It suddenly dawns on them: They do not belong here. And they’re certainly not welcome.

Produced by Rachel Richardson-Jones, White Settlers stars Pollyanna McIntosh (Lucky McGee’s The Woman) and Lee Williams.

Halligan’s second directorial feature following the 2010 UK “teen horror” flick Splintered, he told us of what drew him to White Settlers. “Both Rachel, the producer, and myself became aware of the screenplay a couple of years ago, and we kept pushing Ian Fenton, the writer, to let us make the film. To start with, he was a bit reluctant because he’s also a director and has made some fantastic short films. But eventually, as his work had taken him in other directions and we knew we could raise a small budget in a short amount of time and definitely make the movie rather than spend endless time talking about making it, which so often happens with films in development, he gave us an option on the screenplay. I worked very closely with Ian to make his script work within the restrictions of the limited budget, and between us we crafted something that would work at the locations that we found.”

Filmed over the course of eighteen days on the Arri Alexa camera in 2013, the film (based on the trailer) seems perhaps reminiscent in tone to director Adam Wingard’s 2011 home invasion hit You’re Next.

“Essentially, yes, White Settlers does sit in the ‘home invasion’ arena, but White Settlers was never influenced by that film,” commented Halligan. “Ironically, we became aware of You’re Next while shooting White Settlers, and it was slightly frustrating that another movie had made such an impression through the use of animal masks. If anything, our film takes its cues from films like Straw Dogs. There’s even a touch of those backwater movies like Deliverance, and Ian’s taut and gripping script had echoes (too) of Ils and The Strangers with its contained and claustrophobic set pieces. For me it’s all about placing the audience in the protagonists’ shoes, placing the camera just behind their shoulders, moving through those spaces with them, and using POV shots to build fear. Hitchcock was always the master of that style.”

On directing his lead McIntosh, “Pollyanna is a dream to work with,” effused Halligan. “She’s such a strong performer, who embraces every role she takes 100%. Her character of ‘Sarah’ in White Settlers was something of a departure for her as she’s tended to play very strong, confident, or even feral characters like in The Woman or Let Us Prey, but in White Settlers she starts out a pretty conventional girl, whose only desire is to settle down. What happens next forces her to make a stand if she is to save herself and her partner.”

”It’s all about suspense and tension, and it plays on the universal fear of shacking up in an old, dark house,” Halligan expounded. “Every bump and noise in the night might just be something threatening, and in this case it becomes an all too real threat!”

To purchase tickets to the Screamfest premiere of White Settlers go here, and be sure to “like” the film on Facebook.

Screamfest runs from October 14th to the 21st.

whitesettlersuk - Screamfest L.A. 2014: Director Simeon Halligan Talks US Premiere of White Settlers

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