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“WHITE SETTLERS” (Screamfest Movie Review)

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British director Simeon Halligan and first-time feature writer Ian Fenton delve into the perils facing a pair of yuppies from the city when they embark on a “tree change” in WHITE SETTLERS, which had its U.S. premiere at LA’s Screamfest.

Happy-go-lucky English couple Sarah (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Ed (Lee Williams) can’t believe their luck when they are presented with the opportunity to purchase an idyllic cottage in the Scottish countryside. With a price they could only dream of paying in London or Cornwall, the couple are willing to overlook its dodgy fixtures, remote location and impending astronomical renovation bills. They even find the notion that their new home was once the site of a gruesome battle between the British and the Scots rather romantic.

Yet while all new homes have their general teething problems, the odd noises they hear during their first night in the house are cause for serious alarm. Before long, Sarah and Ed become prey for a band of ruthless men wearing pig masks, whose relentless torment of the couple comprises the remainder of the film. The two are soon separated, and the scenario becomes a cat-and-mouse game, with rising star McIntosh proving herself a force to be reckoned with when Sarah is forced to protect herself and her husband.

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WHITE SETTLERS’ first act establishes a solidly realistic tone, leading the viewer to expect that the film will venture to some pretty dark and extreme places. The setup opens up all sorts of possibilities for an intense and gruesome experience, but—perhaps due to budget constraints—the violence does not go as far as the audience may expect or hope for in a home-invasion flick. The exact identity of the intruders is not revealed, but the reason behind the pig-masked vagabonds’ onslaught of terror is ultimately explained—and this revelation is somewhat anemic and opens up a few plot holes. By the end, it all feels almost anticlimactic, and while there has been talk about WHITE SETTLERS’ subtext involving topical cross-border tensions surrounding Scotland’s impending referendum on whether to become a breakaway independent nation, the opportunities for some good old-fashioned England-vs.-Scotland rivalry, in dialogue, situations and potential humor, are missed.

Still, although the script doesn’t break any new ground, the movie does keep the viewer engaged, with Halligan eliciting some strong moments of tension and suspense. James Swift’s proficient cinematography nicely captures the lush Scottish countryside, and the leads turn in believable performances, even if their characters feel somewhat underdeveloped. All in all, WHITE SETTLERS is fast-paced and suspenseful enough to be worth a look.

2.5_skull

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About the author
Camilla Jackson
Camilla is an actress, writer, film-maker, musician, and horror junkie. She is new to FANGORIA and has a healthy knowledge of all things horror, particularly 70's - 90's films where she interviews writers, directors and actors for Australian cinephile group CINEMANIACS. In her spare time, Camilla writes screenplays, walks dogs, and scours the internet for bargains. She also had a small part in the remake of Australian telekinetic chiller, PATRICK. Currently she is training at The Groundlings and moonlights playing ethereal guitar in a cape.
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