Elliot James Langridge (Northern Soul, Beautiful Devils, Instruments of War)
Jessica Barden (The end of The F***ing World, Penny Dreadful, The Lobster)
William Ash (The Tunnel, Paranoid, Hush, The Loch)
Roxanne Pallett (Emmerdale, Wrong Turn 6, Devil's Tower)
Sally Carman (Coronation Street, Shameless)
Andrew Ellis (This is England)
Louis Emerick (Brookside, Layercake, Coronation Street)
Joanne Mitchell (Adult Babies, Bait, Before Dawn)
Manchester, the present. Michael divides his time between the job centre and the pub. A chance meeting with Lee, an introduction to her Uncle Ian leads to a job working the door at a seedy massage parlour. After witnessing the violent death of one of the punters, Michael experiences blood-drenched flashbacks and feels himself being sucked into a twilight world that he doesn’t understand but that is irresistibly attractive. When he eventually finds out what goes on in the room below Cloud 9, Michaels’ life will never be the same again.
HABIT is stark and grimy with flashes of gaudy surrealism. Beneath the trendy bar and bohemian coffee shop exteriors of Manchester, lies a layer of grot and sleaze and something very dark indeed. Like the novel, the film has a low-key feel, offering fleeting glimpses of something very disturbing that lurks just beneath the surface.
HABIT should leave you thinking “What the hell just happened?” It’s an elusive feeling captured so well in the book which focuses on character, atmosphere and mood.
Cinematographer James Swift’s neon lit colour palette helps to conjure a garish enticing night time world that contrasts sharply with the cold blue saturated world that Michael leaves behind. Chris Gill’s editing skills have given the film rhythm, instinct and emotion. The subliminal power of his editing has helped to create a cumulative sensory event. Claude Foisy’s composed score, is at times, murky, oppressive and trance like, often suggesting the soundscape of Manchester at its most sordid and dangerous.
Simeon Halligan Director
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"A searingly intense chiller which never puts a foot wrong. It might even be a classic".This is Horror
"Much like Straw Dogs for a modern audience, White Settlers is a razor-sharp slice of British horror that will leave you shaken and chilled to the bone". Bizarre Magazine
"Authentic set-up gives us a couple to root for…it’s a decent watch for the genre, with suspense and a promising turn from rising star McIntosh".The Guardian
"A classic showdown between urban interlopers and murderous backwoods natives in the grand tradition of Straw Dogs, Deliverance or The Wicker Man". The Hollywood reporter
"White Settlers exudes a quality not often seen in those of a similar or even higher budget....its deeply disturbing and intensely terrifying". Starburst Magazine
"The gradual escalation of omens is well managed, as two young, frisky, Not-overtly-sensitive Londoners are spooked in their new Scottish home by Pig-masked stalkers who evoke Ils (2006) or Strangers (2008)". Sight and Sound
‘This isn’t about outlandish horror, this is about bringing the horror to a human level... this is a tale about invasion, racism and defence on both sides’. Pissed Off Geek
Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead, Let Us Prey, The Woman)
Lee Williams (Granchester, Hotel Babylon)
Joanne Mitchell (Attack of the Adult Babies, Bait, Before Dawn)
It’s Ed and Sarah’s first night at their new home, an isolated farmhouse.This should be a new beginning away from their stressful London lives. And at first it is; come sunset they fall in love all over again as they wander in the beautiful Scottish landscape. But as darkness falls, Sarah suspects they’re not alone.
Ed goes to investigate and very soon, the evening becomes a nightmare.It suddenly dawns on them; they do not belong here. And they’re certainly not welcome….
White Settlers is a terrifying suspense thriller about an English couple Ed and Sarah, who decide they want to leave the big city rat race behind and start a new life. They decide to purchase an isolated old farm-house in the Scottish Borders, primarily because properties are cheaper there than in other rural areas of England.
The main body of the film takes place on their first night in their new house. Sarah (Pollyanna McIntosh) starts hearing suspicious noises, she’s scared and she tries to convince Ed (Lee Williams) that there’s someone in the house. At first Ed doesn’t believe her but soon it becomes apparent that something strange is going on. As the night unfolds they have to work together to protect each other and ward off a terrible threat. Once Ed has been taken, Sarah must find an inner strength if she is to fight off her assailants and save her husband.
Rachel is responsible for individual film finance, production and market strategy. Since leaving her role as senior Producer at the award-winning production company SPOKEN IMAGE, where she produced corporate work and commercials on an international level, Rachel has produced a number of feature films under the NOT A NUMBER company banner. These include SPLINTERED, WHITE SETTLERS (THE BLOODLANDS) and HABIT. Rachel is experienced in handling complex budgets and has an extensive knowledge of production at all levels.
Rachel Richardson-Jones Producer
Simeon Halligan Director
A Royal College of Art graduate. Originally an art director for Films, TV shows and commercials, Simeon directed award winning shorts before tackling his first feature, SPLINTERED (2010). This was followed by WHITE SETTLERS (2014) a suspense thriller that was distributed worldwide and screened at prestigious festivals such as Sitges, Frightfest, Fantasporto, Flanders and Screamfest LA, where it won best cinematography. HABIT (2017) based on the critically acclaimed novel of the same name was completed in 2017.
Ian Fenton - Screenplay (Strays, Byker Grove)
Charles Bates - Line Producer (Altar, Inspector George Gently, Tyrannosaur )
James Swift - Cinematographer (SSGB, Habit)
John Ellis - Production Design (The Marker, Habit, Altar)
Ewa J. Lind- Editor (The Warrior, Far North)
John Linlar- Costume Designer (Altar, Lewis, Frankenstien)
Paul Boyce- Make up Designer (Warhorse, The Pirates of the Carbian, The Quiet ones)
Jon Wygens- Music (Flying Blind, Mis Christina)
Full cast and crew list available on IMDB
Q. Where did the story come from?
Simeon: The script was written by Scottish screenwriter Ian Fenton and takes its inspiration from films such as DELIVERANCE and SOUTHERN COMFORT where well-heeled and high-minded city dwellers arrive in the country, upset the locals and pay the price. Coming from the Borders, Ian wanted to create a film in that tradition that played against the rich history of cross-border conflicts that existed in the region from the time of the Border Reivers. The film was written as a tense psychological thriller, not a political one, but does, in a quiet way, ask questions about how economic inequality impacts on certain communities and imagines a situation in which people from different ends of the economic ladder find themselves caught in a struggle to regain control of their lives.
Q. Why is the film called ‘White Settlers?
Simeon: White Settlers is a term Scottish people use, particularly in the Highlands, to describe English people who come into the area and buy up the properties the locals cannot afford.
Q. Tell me about the locations in the film- did you have any difficulties filming in such remote places?
Simeon: One of the things I loved about Ian’s screenplay was how it was very prescriptive about the environment. He built suspense by describing the way characters moved through space- building tension through the shadow play of the environment. With a background in production design, I was keen to build a composite set in a studio, to have maximum control over the environment. But the budget was tight, and we couldn’t afford it- It was absolutely vital to figure out how this space would work- and trying to find a location that exactly represented Ian’s vision in the script, was almost impossible. We worked very hard to find the right location. The best we could find did not match the screenplay description, so Ian and I had to redraft the script a little to make this new environment work. The art department then set about turning a nice family home into a battered old farm house.
Q. How did Pollyanna McIntosh get involved?
Rachel Richardson Jones (Producer): Pollyanna had read the script and loved it. We’d seen her previously in an American Horror movie, THE WOMAN, and loved her performance, so we absolutely had to get her working with us on White Settlers. She’s got something about her, Pollyanna, she’s very feisty. She’s played very independent, strong women in the past, so Sarah was a bit of a departure for her. Sarah is more of a victim of circumstance, when we first meet her, she’s a pretty normal career girl who now wants babies and a quite life, which of course is the last thing she gets, when she and Ed move to Castle Farm.
Q. How did Lee Williams he get involved?
Rachel: ‘We always thought Lee had a great look, he was a famous teen, having been a model on a SUADE album cover. After casting Pollyanna quite early on, we were looking around for a perfect Ed that she could really connect with on screen. The two would share an enormous amount of screen time together so chemistry was important, and a believable relationship was essential. In the original screenplay, Ed is a bit of a lad, not very likable really. Lee brought an unprecedented sensitivity to the part; something we’d never really envisioned to start with but ultimately really worked. He softened out the hard edge that others we had auditioned brought to the role and this made his relationship with Pollyanna really believable on screen’.
Q. On such a low budget film, how did you manage to get such a fantastic crew together?
Simeon: People really connected with Ian’s screenplay. It was tight and scary and a really great read, so it attracted a lot of people, they wanted to be involved. Despite minimal pay, the producers worked hard to make sure the crew were fed well and looked after. The atmosphere on set was really positive and every member of the crew got stuck in. We managed to assembled a crew of the industry’s finest, which, amongst others, included Director of Photography, James Swift (POWDER, THE STREET) Camera assistant, Keith McNamara (GLADIATOR, CASINO ROYALE). Make up designer, Paul Boyce (HARRY POTTER, CLASH OF THE TITANS), Costume designer John Lindlar (SILENT WITNESS,PRIME SUSPECT), Production designer John Ellis (A BOY CALLED DAD, MISCHIEF NIGHT), Editor Ewa Lind (THE WARRIOR, L.A.WITHOUT A MAP ) all of which helped us to produce a movie that, I believe, totally surpasses its budgetary limitations.
Rachel: The combination Simeon’s fantastic visual flair, Ian Fenton’s nail biting screenplay alongside Pollyanna McIntosh and Lee Williams’ incredible performances; makes for a brilliantly contained and claustrophobic chiller that grips to the very end.
Q. Tell us about the visual quality of the film?
Simeon: We wanted to produce something that would totally surpass its budget, so we shot on high end cameras, and we made sure to light it as cinematically and as atmospherically as we could. Because the story had limited locations and cast we knew that we had a fighting chance to make every image strong despite the limited time restraints. Obviously much of the film takes place at night which immediately creates problems as extra lighting and set up time costs more money and slows down the production. James Swift, the DOP worked hard to make sure our night scenes were carefully and atmospherically lit.
Q. What inspired the visual style of the film?
Simeon: I was inspired by films like ILLS/THEM and THE STRANGERS, which are both films which isolate their main characters in contained environments. We wanted to use the camera in a very ‘First person’ sort of way, so we used a lot of POV shots; we’re always hovering over our heroes shoulders, we’re always moving through spaces with them- rather than taking a detached perspective on the events. I think it’s vital for this kind of piece, that the viewer feels they are experiencing the situation along side the characters- I think it’s a very involving experience.
Q. What were your challenges of directing the film?
Simeon: Probably the biggest challenge for the director on any low budget movie is the limited time schedule. There never seems to be enough time to shoot what you want to shoot. We were trying to shoot an awful lot, but also trying to shoot something of a level of quality. I like to plan and storyboard sequences, so changing your plans to fit any presented difficulty or situation when time isn’t permitting, is a tricky thing. At one point I had to reduce a ten page chase sequence down to essentially 2 pages because it just wouldn’t fit in the schedule. Figuring out how to orchestrate this while also shooting was a real challenge but a very interesting one. Studying the locations you are using, how you can best use the space to facilitate new plans and then conveying and discussing these ideas with the key members of the production team. Finally you rely on your actors and crew to come up with the goods. You really are only as good as the people you have working around you. On WS I was immensely lucky to have a dedicated and talented crew alongside a fantastic cast, who embraced their characters whole heartedly and brought nuanced and believable performances to the screen.
Q. Tell us about the post-production process.
Simeon: Post-production always takes longer than you think it’s going to. The post on WS has been a really interesting journey and a big learning curve for me. This is my second feature length film as director. I’ve worked with some really good people who have been a great inspiration. Our editor Eva Lind, has worked on a lot of movies and she’s very forthright about her decisions and things she wants in the film. Our working relationship was very strong; we would always say what we felt. A company called Timeline, facilitated all of the post production and pulled out all the stops despite the very limited budget. We did the edit with them and we did the sound with them. We also had a great composer, called John Widgens. Its very easy to be very ‘On the nose’ with horror/suspense thriller movie music, but John, he did something very interesting- very subtle with WS, I think it works very well. To top off the fantastic post experience we also worked with grader Trevor Brown, who had just done LES MISERABLES and WORLD WAR Z. Again, we were incredible lucky to have someone of that stature working with us on such a small budget film. Once edited, the Grader tweaks the colourisation of each of the shots within the film to make sure it all works together. What he’s able to do, to an extent, is manipulate the colour tones of images, and add levels of shading to each image. It really adds a whole new level of quality to the film. Trevor worked very closely with me and with James, the DOP to achieve a very tense and atmospheric visual mood.