MOVIE REVIEW: WHITE SETTLERS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SIMEON HALLIGAN / SCREENPLAY: IAN FENTON / STARRING: POLLYANNA MCINTOSH, LEE WILLIAMS, JOANNE MITCHELL / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 6TH (LIMITED SCREENS), SEPTEMBER 8TH (VOD)
You know, sometimes you are aware that you are just not welcome. The sophomore feature from Simeon Halligan (Splintered) preys on both that feeling, and a fear even more common: home invasion.
Ed (Williams) and Sarah (McIntosh) have moved into their dream home: Castle Farm, an isolated farmhouse with plenty of land in the remote Scottish borders. Although it's run down - the previous owner couldn't afford to keep it running and eventually died there, the estate going to probate rather his family - the pair sees its potential and hope it will kick start a new life for them. On the very first night, however, their nightmare begins.
With its very simple premise, White Settlers manages to draw the viewer into its deeply disturbing and intensely terrifying scenario incredibly quickly. As the evening progresses, the couple endure fright after fright, each more nerve-wracking than the last before they finally come under physical attack.
Although there's a fair amount of violence, White Settlers doesn't take the easy route of heading straight for shock value, scoring points instead by psychological means; through relentless tension and building anxiety. Which is not to say it doesn't have its average share of jolts and jumps, but wisely, they are applied sparingly.
Pollyanna once again proves herself as one of the best actors currently in the country, (the irony that she's actually Scottish isn't lost on us) and appears to be completely fearless with the roles she undertakes; it certainly won't be long until she is recognised as a major league player. Her character acts as both final girl and hero; rising from frightened victim to brave-hearted survivalist, while Williams' Ed seems to do the reverse. Sarah is certainly the most proactive person in the relationship!
Despite some outcry by some areas of the press, the film doesn't come across as merely exploiting the upcoming referendum to make Scotland independent from Great Britain, but the timing of the release couldn't come at a more apt time, so who could blame the producers for playing on it for the promotion? The film doesn't in any way insinuate anything about the Scots; this is a tale of territories and entitlement, not politics, and could take place in any rural area the world over.
White Settlers exudes a quality not often seen in those of a similar or even higher budget. The daytime shots are stunning, presenting the tranquil surroundings at their very best (with the Peak District standing in for the Scottish borders), and while the bulk of the activity takes place at night, it is never so murky that one struggles to understand what's going on. If there is a fault, it's a common one; in that the trailer reveals too much (particularly in regard to Pollyanna's character). Despite that, it still packs quite a punch.
It's a film which benefits greatly from being seen on the big screen, so don't miss your chance on the short September run.