LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of White Settlers
By James Whittington, Saturday 18th August 2018 Horror Channel's FrightFest Season includes some truly memorable movies from past events and one of the strongest is Simeon Halligan's, White Settlers which is showing on the 19th August.
We had a quick chat with Simeon about this superior shocker as well as his own festival, Grimmfest.
HC: How did the script for White Settlers come to your notice?
SH: It was a strange situation, I had read the script a year or so before we set about making the film, I think it had been sent us by Ian Fenton's agent but then we found out that Ian was thinking of making the film under his own production company so we thought it had gone away. Then, once we had raised finance for a new movie project (We had the money pledged before we had the project, which was amazing and not likely to happen again!) we double checked with Ian about the script and it hadn't been produced so we persuaded him to work with us and allow us to turn his script into the movie. We basically said, we can get this made now, we have the finance in place, its not a huge budget but we think we can just about do it justice on this budget and we will all get a feature made. He finally agreed and then we worked closely together to finalise the screenplay.
HC: White Settlers was released around the time of the Scottish referendum, was this deliberate or pure coincidence?
SH: Initially it was a total coincidence. It was only just after the film was completed that we started noticing that the proposed timing of the release fitted nicely alongside the upcoming Scottish referendum. Essentially, White Settlers is about an English couple who decide to buy a ramshackle old farm in the Scottish borders and discover they really are not welcome there. So the film does touch upon contemporary UK issues, like the divide between the wealthy and the poor, the divide between the English and the Scottish and makes a political point about people with money buying up properties in rural areas, that the locals can no longer afford. Obviously it's done under the guise of a suspense thriller, which means its actually fun to watch, the issues are really subtext to the action. At the time, I remember tweeting, 'Could WS be the Sottish referendum horror movie?' Someone from the Scotsman newspaper picked up on this and asked if they could do a piece on the film within the context of the imminent referendum. Once that story went live, The Guardian newspaper followed suit and soon the film was hitting headlines and causing controversy particularly in Scotland. Some people felt it was a cynical attempt to cash in on current events but I assure you it just kinda happened, it wasn't deliberate.
HC: How did you go about casting the movie?
SH: To be honest, I had met Pollyanna McIntosh at Grimmfest before casting her in WS. She attended in support of Paul Davis's very funny short film, Him Indors of which she starred along side Reece Shearsmith. So I was already looking out for something that she might fancy starring in. I remember sending her something else to start with, which she wasn't that keen on but then we secured the WS screenplay and I sent it to her. In all credit to Ian Fenton, Pollyanna read it immediately and got back to me within a few hours, expressing her interest in the project. We also cast Joanne Mitchell, who we also knew from Grimmfest, She'd been with us for Before Dawn and over the years we've struck up a strong relationship with her and Dominic Brunt, as, I guess, we have fair bit in common, both being northern genre film makers. And finally Pollyanna's partner in the film Ed was played by Lee Williams, who came on board, literally at the last minute when our previous Ed fell through, literally days before shooting commenced.
HC: What sort of budget did you have to work with?
SH: It was tight. I wanted to make WS the very best it could be despite the budget limitations. I wanted it to look like a high end movie. I was influenced by movies like The Strangers and ILS (Tehm) and I recognised that neither of those films cost that much to make (probably a fair bit more than WS, though!!), they worked on the premise of using limited locations and cast, they were about building tension and suspense. These elements combined don't necessarily require massive budget power to be successful but they do require careful planning and thoughtful direction. Obviously because the budget was so tight, we only had limited shooting days, I think we had around 18 days in total. In the end we were forced to shoot 2 days of pickups later on to finish the film. It was certainly a challenge all round but despite the limitations WS has gone on to become pretty successful. Its screen all round the world at high end film festivals and has sold to many countries. And it's still finding new viewers as it moves onto terrestrial TV. It's great to see it playing on the Horror Channel.
HC: It's a home invasion meets Deliverance kind of movie, is that right?
SH: I guess you could describe it that way. I think Ian Fenton was inspired by films like Deliverance and Southern Comfort and I was looking at films like ILS (Them) for inspiration. The press made comparisons to Straw Dogs when it was initially released. To be honest, I'm more than a little humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as those movies.
HC: Was it all shot on location, and if so what was the hardest scene to shoot?
SH: Yes it was. Probably the hardest stuff to shoot was the 'pick ups' we shot months after the original shoot. We couldn't afford to go back out into the depths of the countryside and had to keep the shoot within the Manchester Area. We needed to complete some of the forest sequences but we couldn't find any forest!! We worked hard to secure a local country park but at the last minute they decided they wanted an extortionate fee to shoot there and we couldn't afford it. I took a walk from our office, scratching my head, desperate for ideas on how we could shoot this extra material, that's when I literally stumbled across some overgrown waste ground near the office, that, if shot at the right angles, at night, might just work as forest. The shoot was tricky, we had to block out nearby street lights and plan our shots very carefully but we managed it. I challenge you to identify those shots within the finished film!!
HC: What did people in Scotland this of the movie?
SH: I think it got a mixed reaction. Many people saw it for what it was, a fun suspense thriller with a touch of social comment, whereas others felt offended by its content. I think it often depended what side of the referendum debate they sat on. I'd be interested to see what viewers make of it when its aired on the Horror Channel.
HC: It has a very British feel to it, how was it received overseas?
SH: I never thought of it that way. I guess it does but crucially, despite its context being rooted in the UK, it plays out in a recognisable way, its a home invasion movie and audiences the World over recognise that horror 'sub genre' and so it has enabled WS to travel really well. If they don't get the social/political context in say, Japan, it doesn't really matter as long as they enjoy the ride. It's played and sold all over the World and continues to do so, it recently sold to yet another territory despite being over four years old now. I'm proud to say it keeps finding new audiences.
HC: Your own celebration of the genre, Grimmfest is 10 years old in October, how has the festival changed over its first decade and do you plan to expand it at all?
SH: For those that don't know, I also run Grimmfest which is one of the UK's largest genre film festivals. It takes place first weekend of Oct in Manchester. We started it in 2009, really as a way to showcase our own movie Splintered, which was my first feature length film as director (it has also played on Horror Channel in the past). But it just grew in scale very quickly. Initially we never intended to run a film festival but the enormous interest it gained meant that we were offered loads of movies to screen. Fast forward 10 years and Grimmfest is bigger than ever. This year we take over the Odeon Great Northern in Manchester from the 4th to the 7th October. We are just finalising our movie premiere line up and guest list. This year we have some amazing UK premieres, all of which will be announced on the 3rd Sept. Our special guest this year is horror movie icon Barbara Crampton who will receive a Horror Channel lifetime achievement award and join us for a special screening of Re-Animator and a number of her brand new movies. Not to be missed!
HC: What are you up to at the moment?
SH: Busy, busy as usual! Deep in preparation for this years Grimmfest and also busy putting the final pieces in place for my next movie which is called The Besieged. The simple pitch is, Dog Day Afternoon meets The Thing!
Related show tags: BARBARA CRAMPTON, GRIMMFEST, HABIT, SIMEON HALLIGAN, WHITE SETTLERS MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Bill Watterson director of Dave Made a Maze
Posted on Sunday 4th November 2018
At Grimmfest 2017 we had the chance to view one of the most original pieces of cinema we'd seen in a long time, Dave Made a Maze. Directed by Bill Watterson it's an intelligent, thought-provoking film that deserves to reach a global audience and will be released here early 2019. We chatted to Bill about this incredible movie.
HC: Where did this concept come from?
WW: Three places: Steven was underway on a script called 'Operation: Death Maze,' or something cool like that. Portions of it were re-purposed after he jibed with a story I told about my mom coming home and seeing an incredible fort that I'd build in my bedroom, and concluding that I'd gotten lost within it when I d...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Paul Hyett director of Peripheral
Posted on Friday 2nd November 2018 Paul Hyett is a firm FrightFest favourite. His work jumps from genre you genre with ease but still retains that "Hyett" feeling in each piece. His latest work, Peripheral is having its UK Premiere at the FrightFest Halloween 2018 event so we decided to chat to Paul about this and his view on technology.
HC: How did the project of Peripheral come together?
PH: Peripheral was bought to me by the original producer, he thought I'd be a good fit. Originally he had pitched me a one woman in a room, contained location about bad technology theme. It didn't feel appealing as after Howl, which was a big film in terms of cast, VFX, stunts etc and I was looking for a more challenging film logisticall...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Julian Richards, director of Reborn
Posted on Wednesday 17th October 2018
Ahead of the World premiere screening of Reborn at FrightFest Halloween, Julian Richards discusses the torturous challenges of Daddy's Girl, why he wishes every actress was like Barbara Crampton and future plans, including directing the English language remake of Rabies.
HC: After six years away from directing, you have two films, Reborn and Daddy's Girl poised for distribution. Why these two very different films now?
JR: My previous film Shiver was completed in 2012 and it took longer for me to get back into the directing saddle because of commitments I had to my sales company Jinga Films. The company was growing quickly and needed more of my time and energy. We had grown from handling th...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Jules Vincent, co-writer and producer of Alive
Posted on Thursday 4th October 2018
Grimmfest 2018 is well underway and delivering some memorable movie moments, and one of the best is showing on Sunday, Alive. This cracking film sees the return of Grimmfest favourite Rob Grant as director and has been co-written and co-produced by Chuck McCue and Jules Vincent. Here Jules tells all about this brilliant piece.
HC: Where did the idea for Alive come from?
JV: We'd talked about writing a horror screenplay for a number of years before we finally came up with the right idea. We're both big fans of classic horror and we love the works of Hitchcock, Carpenter, Friedkin, and Cronenberg so in a way we had a very specific style and feel in mind before we even had the story. A...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Olivier Afonso director of Girls With Balls
Posted on Wednesday 3rd October 2018
Grimmfest 2018 kicks off tomorrow and one of the many highlights of the four day event is the blood-splattered shocker Girls With Balls. We chatted to it's director Olivier Afonso about this fab film and his career as an SFX artists.
HC: What inspired you to write Girls With Balls?
OA: My co-writer and I we wanted to write a trash comedy to entertain an audience because we love festivals: the atmosphere, people screaming, laughing... Personally, I'm inspired by the eighties and nineties movies such as of Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, Alex de la Iglesia. We wanted to make a survival movie but with strong women, a girl ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, the creative forces behind Crystal Eyes
Posted on Saturday 15th September 2018
FrightFest 2018 exposed attendees to horror from all over the world and one that made an incredibly stylish and retro impact was the superb giallo inspired shocker, Crystal Eyes. Here the co-writers and co-directors Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano tell us all about this affectionate love letter to the classics of the 80s.
Where did the idea for Crystal Eyes come from?
Crystal Eyes was supposed to be the third episode of our web-series called No Podras Dormir Esta Noche (You Won't Sleep Tonight) which paid homage to different horror sub genres in each episode, and eventually it turned into a feature film. We love Giallo si...SHARE: READ MORE Exclusive interview with Adam Green, director of Hatchet.
Posted on Thursday 13th September 2018
Ahead of Horror Channel's UK TV Premiere of Hatchet on Friday 14th Sept, director Adam Green gives an exclusive interview about his beloved franchise and what the future holds for Victor Crowley...
Hatchet is finally getting its first showing on UK TV, courtesy of Horror Channel. We're excited, are you?
I couldn't be more excited! I've always said that even though Hatchet may have world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, it was at FrightFest in London where "Victor Crowley" was truly born. FrightFest was "the screening heard around the world" and the UK audience was so enthusiastic over Hatchet that every genre festival on t...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Tom de Ville, director of Corvidae
Posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018
HC: This is your first short as a director, what inspired you to write this script?
TdV: I read a really interesting article about how smart crows are, in particular how they can hold grudges. Apparently a group of scientists had gone out and harassed a murder of crows whilst wearing masks. If they went back wearing the masks, the crows would remember them and fight back. If they didn't wear the masks, the crows would leave them alone. This made me start thinking about what would happen if someone tried to save a crow from a bunch of kids who were trying to kill it. Would the other crows from its murder remember this? And what would they do to help her?...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
Posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018
HC: Your last movie, The Creature Below was two years ago, what's life been back since then?
SS: Since The Creature Below premiered at Frightfest in 2016 things haven't really stopped for myself and my collaborator Paul Butler. We were lucky enough to have the film released on DVD and VOD in over eight countries under various names. I think my favourite has to be Japan's Leviathan X: From the Deep! The film even had a theatrical release in Taiwan which was quite surreal as it was playing opposite Thor Ragnarok over there so overall, we've been completely blown away by everything that's happened. Paul and I are always coming up wit...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ferdinando D'Urbano actor, writer, producer of The Laplace's Demon
Posted on Tuesday 28th August 2018
A stand-out movie from FrightFest 2018 tested the brain power of those who saw it. The Laplace's Demon is an incredibly powerful piece so we chatted to one of the creatives behind it, Ferdinando D'Urbano.
HC: I'd never heard of Laplace's Demon theory before, can you give us a quick explanation of what it is?
FDU: The Laplace's Demon is a philosophical theory of the early 1800s. Pierre Simon Laplace was a French mathematician who in his work "Essai philosophique sur les probabilites" (A philosophical essay on probabilities), theorized that if there were an intellect capable of knowing al...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Andre Gower director of Wolfman's Got Nards
Posted on Monday 27th August 2018
HC: You had already starred in a lot of stuff before The Monster Squad came along, did you think that this was just "another" acting job?
AG: At the time, it was just that. The next audition, the next project. However, once on set and seeing what you were a part of, we realized quickly that this was something bigger and more unique than anything we had done before or may even get to do in the future.
HC: Were you a fan of the Universal monsters at that time?
AG: I always had an appreciation for the classics even as a kid. As you mature, you keep that appreciation and learn more about it and how it affects the present and realize these were very important...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with John Rocco and Abiel Bruhn the writers and directors of The Night Sitter
Posted on Sunday 26th August 2018
HC: Where did the idea for The Night Sitter come from?
JR: From the beginning of this story, I had my childhood home in Nashville in mind as the perfect location. After several months of convincing, my parents allowed us to film in their house. It's a pretty amazing feeling to have grown up in the same location that we'd eventually film our first feature in! We were able to incorporate all the parts of my house that used to scare me as a child and weave them into a story about witches, which was extremely fun and nostalgic at times. While developing the story, I tried to recall the scary thoughts I had when I was Kevin's age.
AB: Finding an inspiring location (the house has this stran...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Wednesday 28th November
Tuesday 20th November
Monday 26th November