Any serious horror fan who focuses on film festivals, VOD listings, limited releases, and DVD dates will feel a deep sense of familiarity as they read the plot synopsis of the new British thriller called White Settlers, now available in the US as The Blood Lands. In other words, if you’re familiar with films like Eden Lake, Storm Warning, The Strangers, Them, You’re Next, or even the original Straw Dogs, then a lot of White Settlers may feel like a remake – but as a guy who knows (and likes) all of those films despite a basic feeling of “been here, done this,” I have no trouble adding White Settlers to the list of horror stories about “city people” who piss off “country people” and live to regret it in a serious way.

The plot is satisfyingly simple: an English couple purchase an estate for a ridiculously good price, but given the history of the location – not to mention the current political situation – this means that Ed (Lee Williams) and Sarah (Pollyanna McIntosh) are now the beleaguered owners of a house that has been the location of much tension between the English and the Scottish. The real estate agent (who also serves as a very simple exposition spout) explains that Peel House was once the site of a horrific uprising, but these middle-class and oh-so-modern city folk overlook the information and promptly move in.

Suffice to say that it doesn’t take long before an ominous presence makes itself known, and then White Settlers is pretty much just Ed and Sarah as they run, hide, scream, suffer, and (eventually) grow some backbone and fight back against their porcine oppressors. (The home invaders are wearing pig masks, which adds a creepy visual touch, but doesn’t exactly raise the film’s originality quotient,) Where White Settlers does acquit itself rather well is in the departments of score, pacing, and (once we get to Act III) a palpable and simply entertaining sense of tension.

That we’ve already seen much of White Settlers has to offer in the story department is obvious, but sometimes one likes to play along anyway. The only things that separate the film from many of its ilk are a great location, a typically strong performance from Ms. McIntosh, and an admirably expeditious pace that helps to keep an oft-told tale feeling just fresh enough to warrant your attention. Sometimes indie thrillers are like old jokes: it’s not the originality one focuses on; it’s the presentation.


Scott Weinberg