Updated: Sunday, 5th July 2020 @ 5:57am

Controversial film dubbed ‘the Scottish referendum horror movie’ to premier in Manchester days before vote

Controversial film dubbed ‘the Scottish referendum horror movie’ to premier in Manchester days before vote

| By George Bellshaw

A controversial film dubbed ‘the Scottish referendum horror movie’ will get its northern premier in Manchester this week.

White Settlers tells the story of an English couple, played by Pollyanna McIntosh and Lee Williams, who relocate to the idyllic Scottish borders, only to end up being brutally terrorised by their Tartan neighbours.

The film's director Simeon Halligan has faced tough opposition in getting the film screened – given that its release is so close the Scottish referendum on independence – which takes place on Thursday.

“A lot of the main cinema chains wouldn’t screen it because of its apparently contentious Scottish content,” Simeon told MM.

“It’s caused a bit of controversy and some of the main cinema chains are very nervous about putting on anything with reference to Scotland at the moment with the build up to the referendum next week.

“It sounds bizarre but in the build up to the Scottish referendum, this film has been dubbed the Scottish Referendum Horror Movie.

“It hasn’t actually helped us that much in getting it into the big cinemas. But it has helped us get some press on the back of it being attached to the referendum.”

Simeon claimed that while it was not initially intended to be released just before the vote, it seemed foolish not to release it in such an uncertain time.

He believes the film makes a sharp political point surrounding the relationship between the Scottish and English, should the yes vote be successful.

Simeon added: “The film pictures intolerance and a certain misunderstanding between the English and the Scottish and I personally think that those attitudes could be heightened if we separate.

“I would have thought that would drive a wedge between us a little more and maybe increase that animosity, in some quarters anyway, between certain types of people on both sides of the border.


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“The writer is Scottish, Ian Fenton, and the film is set in the Scottish borders. It’s a piece of entertainment primarily but it does have a political subtext to it that Ian wanted to write about, a sense of intolerance of outsiders coming into an area where they’re not liked.

“It was also based very much on his experiences of being a Scotsman who moved south and came back across the border again trying to look to buy a house and feeling a sense of animosity from the locals.“

Simeon and Rachel Richardson-Jones, the producer, became aware of White Settlers several years ago, and said that while screenplays are traditionally tough to read this script was more like a novel.

Ian, a writer who has written for both Emmerdale and Byker Grove, was reluctant at first to let Simeon and Richardson-Jones use his script but was eventually swayed.

The film was shot in the Peak District and produced in Manchester where Grimm Entertainment is based. Incredibly it was shot in only 18 days.

“We thought it was a very tense piece full of suspense,” Simeon said. “It’s very contained and simple, in its storyline and its use of locations, which is good because we knew it was a film we could make on quite a tight budget.

“We were looking for something we could make with limited resources and something we could make look as cinematic as possible.”


CLUELESS: Pollyanna McIntosh and Lee Williams play the happy couple in the film

While the majority of the film’s content is bone-crunchingly brutal, the director recalled one of the lighter moments on set involving one of the film’s actors – a pig.

“There’s a scene where a pig comes racing out of a barn and scares the hell out of them. The pig, of course, wouldn’t do what we wanted it to do,” he said.

“So I spent most of the night chasing a pig around the yard for the camera trying to get it to do what we wanted it to do.

“We got something out of it in the end but it was very difficult. That was pretty ridiculous, = everyone watching me chase a pig around a yard for about two hours."

White Settlers will be displayed in October at the famous Sitges film festival in Spain as well as several other high-profile festivals that Simeon is keeping close to his chest.

After the film has had its run, Simeon will get to work on his next project, which he revealed exclusively to MM.


GRIM: The English couple run into a spot of bother on the Scottish border

Simeon said: “It’s called Dearly Beheaded. It’s a comedy horror about a stag do that goes horrendously wrong. It turns into a bit of a bloodbath.

“It’s very funny and written by a new screenwriter called David Scullion. It’s a really funny script and we’re approaching some of the primo Brit comedy actors to star in it.”

Simeon is also recognised as one of the founders of the acclaimed horror film festival, Grimmfest, which takes place in October.

Grimmfest has received national acclaim but it was never intended to become a festival in the first place, rather, it was meant as a platform for his first film, Splintered.

Simeon said: “We filmed Splintered and wanted to get that screened and we thought we should do a screening in Manchester because it’s our hometown.

“We thought it would be a good plan to do it at Halloween because it’s a scary movie and then we thought we should maybe get a few more filmmakers to bring their films to the table and make it a Halloween night.

“People became aware of what we were doing and what started out as just a little showcase ended up becoming a full on festival. I think we screened 25 feature films that year.

“We never really intended to do that, it just kind of happened. It’s just escalated from there really. Every year it seems to have got bigger and more popular. “

White Settlers will run between the September 15-18 at The Dancehouse, Manchester, then at The Small Cinema, Moston, between September 20-23.

For more information, click here

Image courtesy of Grimm entertainment, via YouTube, with thanks.