HORROR can be a great genre for engaging with current events. It’s too bad, then, that White Settlers, a film much-hyped as the first independence referendum-themed horror movie, delivers neither decent genre thrills nor provokes much subtextual unease about Scotland’s relationship with England in the run up to the vote.
WHITE SETTLERS (15)
Directed by: Simeon Halligan
Starring: Pollyanna McIntosh, Lee Williams
Star rating: * *
A DANGEROUS GAME (PG)
Directed by Anthony Baxter
Star rating: * * * *
Revolving around a contemptible yuppie London couple (Pollyanna McIntosh and Lee Williams) who incur the wrath of pig-masked locals after relocating to the Scottish Borders to capitalise on cheaper property prices, its set-up has the makings of both a gnarly home invasion thriller and a survival movie about insensitive incomers being terrorised by backwoods locals. Alas, writer Ian Fenton and director Simeon Halligan fail to make these tropes scary or tense enough within a Scottish context. Consequently, they can’t capitalise on the film’s blatant political subtexts in any meaningful way. The end result is fairly mediocre, boringly executed stuff – more provocative for the timing of its release than anything it puts on screen.
The notion of wealthy incomers meeting hostile Scottish locals is also at the heart of A Dangerous Game – another movie set in Scotland receiving a timely release this week. Anthony Baxter’s follow-up to his 2010 documentary You’ve Been Trumped sees him revisiting the residents of the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire as they fight against Donald Trump and his luxury golf resorts.
Baxter begins the film with a useful run-through of the main points from You’ve Been Trumped to provide some context for how universal its themes have turned out to be. Indeed, just as golf began in Scotland and spread across the world, so Baxter finds himself investigating the damaging impact golf course construction has had around the world. Back in Aberdeenshire, there’s still plenty of anger at Trump, of course, but also at the Scottish Government for allowing Trump’s proposals to go ahead in the first place, and at Alex Salmond, in whose constituency the Menie estate lies (interview requests with the First Minister were declined).
Baxter weaves all this together into a fascinating and fairly damning indictment, not so much of golf, but of the arrogant culture of exclusivity that has overtaken it worldwide. This is a real Scottish horror film.