LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of White Settlers
By James Whittington, Saturday 18th August 2018
Image of Simeon HalliganHorror 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 FRIGHTFEST
Interview with Sean Nichols Lynch writer and director of Red Snow
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
RedSnow-poster

Final film of Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition 2021 is a fangtastic (sorry) twist on the vampire movie, Sean Nichols Lynch's Red Snow. We had a quick chat about this blood-splattered shocker which has a deep vein of humour running through it.

HC: Where did the idea for Red Snow come from?

SL: I was trying to get a different horror feature financed and was struggling to get it off the ground. It was a frustrating period for me, and I honestly felt like I'd never get to make another film. I happened to run into Dennice, who I knew from my film school days at San Francisco State. We got to talking and I started to think about how great it would be to just drop everything and ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Alex Kahuam writer and director of Forgiveness
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Alex Kahuam 1 Forgiveness

Director Alex Kahuam has brought to Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition a brutal and intelligent film, Forgiveness. Almost devoid of dialogue, it's an excursion into the raw side of reality. Here he chats about this movie and his plans for the future.

HC: Was there one movie you saw when growing up which made you want to go into filmmaking?

AK: When we were kids my brother and I my parents took us a lot to the theaters and this is where everything began for me. I just loved the experience so much and till this day I thank them because they triggered this on me and for many years filmmaking has been my life. While growing up Hollywood films have always be...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Sarah Appleton co-writer and co-director of The Found Footage Phenomenon
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Sarah Appleton

The final documentary of FrightFest Online Edition looks to one of the most misunderstood genres out there. The Found Footage Phenomenon dissects this often over-looked type of movie with interviews from many key players. We chatted to co-writer and co-director Sarah Appleton about this very informative piece.

HC: Have you always been a fan of horror movies?

SA: Yes, I grew up watching Hammer horror movies and Japanese horror because my dad was a film critic, so I used to look through all his VHS tapes he'd taped off the late night tv and pick something to watch. Evil Dead II was one of the first horror movies I ever saw, aged about 8.

HC: Can you recall the first fo...

SHARE: READ MORE
Taxi rides and crumbling hotels - Day 5 of Arrow Video FrightFest Online Edition: Part 2
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
NightDrive-poster

As we enter the final evening of Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition 2021 there's still plenty to look forward to starting with a belter from directors Brad Baruh and Meghan Leon, Night Drive. Ride-share app driver Russell picks up his Hollywood fare Charlotte... and his whole life turns upside down. Slipping him a wad of cash, she hires him for the rest of the evening. Their first stop at her ex's place sees Charlotte running out the door clutching a tiny suitcase being chased. They make their escape, but accidentally run over a pedestrian, setting in motion a chain of gruesome events that will go to places Russell could never have imagined in his wildest dreams. What starts off as a simpl...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Josh Stifter director of Greywood's Plot
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
GreywoodsPlot-1

There are a number of monochrome movies at FrightFest this year and one of the stand out ones is Josh Stifter's Greywood's Plot so we had a quick chat with him about it.

HC: Was there one movie you saw when you were younger that made you want to be in the filmmaking business?

JS: Beetlejuice. I saw it when I was 5 years old. My family all got the flu and my mom went and rented it. This was back in the day when you didn't have access as easily to movies so if you rented a movie, it often would get watched a couple times before it was returned. Since we had nothing else to do, we all just laid around sick watching Beetlejuice over and over. I became obsessed. It was the first tim...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Conor Stechschulte writer of Ultrasound
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Ultrasound-1

Based on his own graphic novel 'Generous Bosom', Conor Stechschulte has written a tight and tense script for Ultrasound which is showing today at Arrow Films Fright Online Edition. We chatted to him about the process of bringing his original idea to the big screen.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to become a writer?

CS: I did! At about 7 or 8 I went from wanting to be a fighter pilot to wanting to be a writer. My formal education is in visual art, but I've always had narratives at the heart of all the creative work that I make and have never really stopped writing in one form or another.

HC: Was there any one person who inspired you?

CS: I can't...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Rob Schroeder director of Ultrasound
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Ultrasound-1

The feature debut of Rob Schroeder, producer of Sun Choke and Beyond The Gates, Ultrasound is a startling puzzle box Sci-Fi mystery and playing today at Arrow Films FrightFest Online Event. We chatted to Rob about this chilling movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be in filmmaking?

RS: Not really. When I was young, I loved going to the movie theatre every week, but I didn't see filmmaking as a career because in my town I didn't know any filmmakers. The movies were always so special for me and even sacred, so at a young age I did sense the magic.

HC: How did become attached to this project?

RS: I developed the project, by reaching out to Cono...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Peter Daskaloff director and co-writer of Antidote
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Peter Daskaloff Anitdote

Peter Daskaloff has brought his nerve-jangling movie Antidote to FrightFest Online Eidtion 2021 so we chatted to him about this complex and intriguing movie.

HC: What is your writing method when working alongside someone else?

PD: I usually write alone. But for Antidote, I had to hire a co-writer because the subject was complex. I needed another set of eyes to look at it from outside my box. Matt Toronto was recommended to me by my executive producer, Ian Michaels, who has worked with Matt before. The collaboration was a bit bumpy, but the resulting script turned out pretty good.

HC: How did you go about casting the movie?

PD: I had a casti...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Francesco Erba writer and director of As in Heaven, So on Earth
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Francesco Erba As In Heaven director

As In Heaven, So On Earth mixes the found footage genre with incredible animation to deliver a truly unique take on the format. The movie effortlessly moves from its gothic animation to cutting edge technology footage and brings together a tale which is emotional and utterly heart breaking in equal measure. We chatted to its writer and director Francesco Erba as it plays at FrightFest Online Edition 2021.

HC: Where did the idea for As in Heaven, So on Earth come from?

FE: As in Heaven, So on Earth was born not only from one specific idea but, as very often occurs, from many different ones, different influences and life experien...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Casey Dillard actor and writer of Killer Concept
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
KillerConcept-2

If you managed to catch Driven the other year at FrightFest then you'll need to catch Killer Concept today. Writer Casey Dillard is back alongside director Glenn Payne but this time serial killers are the target. We chatted to Casey about this movie.

HC: It's been a couple of years since we last chatted, apart from Killer Concept, what have you been up to?

CD: Mostly avoiding Covid and trying to find work-arounds so that I can still perform safely.

HC: Where did the idea for Killer Concept come from?

CD: Glenn wanted to make a simple movie with minimal people while our core filmmaking team was unable to go to work so we kicked around a lot of ideas and KC wa...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Glenn Payne director and actor from Killer Concept
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
KillerConcept-poster

If you managed to catch Driven the other year at FrightFest then you'll need to catch Killer Concept today. Director Glenn Payne is back alongside writer Casey Dillard but this time serial killers are the target. We chatted to him about this movie.

HC: It's been a couple of years since you brought the superb movie Driven to FrightFest, how was that movie received across the world?

GP: Thank you for the kind words! We've felt very blessed by how warm the reception's been for Driven. We knew the story was different, given the entire thing takes place inside one vehicle, but the characters really seemed to resonate with people. I think that's a huge testament to the per...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Chad Crawford Kinkle writer and director of Dementer
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Chad Crawford Kinkle Dementer Image 2

A movie which is bold not only with its storytelling but its casting is playing today at FrightFest. Dementer from Chad Crawford Kinkle, is an emotional, raw and very real feeling movie built around a care home which delivers some of the most effective acting you'll see at the event this year. Here he chats about this superb film.

HC: Where did the idea for Dementer come from?

CK: The idea was really years in the making. I had always wanted to do a film with my sister but my mind always went to doing a documentary of some sort. Then one year at Sundance, I watched the movie The Tribe and it sparked an idea that I could set a narrativ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Frightfest Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
Christine
CHRISTINE
Thursday 16th December
10.45 PM
Tales from the Lodge
TALES FROM THE LODGE
Sunday 19th December
9.00 PM
Tales From The Darkside
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE
Sunday 19th December
8.30 PM