MOVIE REVIEW: WHITE SETTLERS / CERT 15 / DIRECTOR: SIMEON HALLIGAN / SCREENPLAY: IAN FENTON / STARRING: POLYANNA MCINTOSH, LEE WILLIAMS, JOANNE MITCHELL / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 6TH (LIMITED)
Cult horror lady Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) takes the lead in White Settlers, playing one half of lovely couple Sarah and Ed. Relocating from England to the Scottish borders, they hope that their rustic new home signals an end to their stressful Londoner lives. What they haven't counted on are the angry locals, none too happy with the bloody English taking up residence on their land. As the real-world cry for Scottish independence gathers pace, there has never been more timely a horror film than White Settlers.
Like You're Next crossed with the French home invasion flick Them (Ils – not the one with the ants), mysterious masked antagonists are the order of the day, breaking into Ed and Sarah's home and trussing the poor chap up with duct tape. Sarah flees, and what follows is a deadly game of cat-and-mouse between the terrified but capable Sarah and the cold but slightly useless attackers. McIntosh carries herself well as Sarah, being at once strong, vulnerable, adorable and ever so slightly annoying. Shuffled into the damsel in distress role, Lee Williams is given less to do, but that's fine, as it gives McIntosh more room in the spotlight.
Unfortunately for the actors, director Simeon Halligan and writer Ian Fenton don't go nearly far enough to fully flex anyone's muscles. Although the build-up is well-balanced and maintained – there's a very interesting, subtle dominant/submissive kink to Ed and Sarah's relationship – the action itself is disappointing. Anyone who has seen more than a couple of backwoods horror or home invasion movies will find nothing new during the final hour, from huddled terror in the bushes to surprise bear traps in the shrubbery. It's slick, well-done and occasionally gory, but repetitive nevertheless.
Which is a shame, since White Settlers has plenty of room to do and be something great. The restless Scottish angle could have been more fully explored, the action could have more visceral, the thrills more unpredictable. It's far classier than your average Wrong Turn or Hills Have Eyes movies, but it's not as fun as You're Next, as brutal as Eden Lake or even as enjoyably trashy as, well, Wrong Turn. It's diverting entertainment, buoyed by a great performance from Pollyanna McIntosh (let's see more of her in the genre's future, please) and solid writing and direction from Halligan and Fenton.
A fine slice of homegrown horror, White Settlers is well-made and intelligent, with a little more to say than most. While it flirts with cliché too much to be considered a resounding success, it's still better than the deep-fried crap (yes, alright, including more than a few Wrong Turn sequels) generally being put out these days.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10