HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS, THE SCOTS/ENGLISH VERSION
Main Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Lee Williams
Director: Simeon Halligan
So what do you do when the movie you’re watching for review has a whole lot of cultural backstory you don’t know anything about and don’t really want to research, but that cultural stuff pretty much IS the movie? Let’s find out.
In 2014’s Blood Lands (aka WHITE SETTLERS), Ed (Lee Williams, “Hotel Babylon”) and Sarah (Pollyanna McIntosh, “The Walking Dead”) have moved from London to the Scottish countryside, snatching up a vast farmhouse for almost no money at all. The place needs a ton of work done to it, the electrical is sketchy, and there’s no cell service. But what a find.
The two begin to settle in, but their first night in the house turns out to be the nightmare of all nightmares as Blood Lands turns out to be a home invasion movie. You can guess what happens from there (their home is invaded, in case you can’t guess).
Ed and Sarah engage in a cat and mouse chase around their property and through the surrounding woods as a group of men disguised in pig masks come after them. There’s no clear motive other than, from what I gather, the Scots hate the English? But then there’s a very strange, out of nowhere, ending tacked on and it feels like it undoes everything that’s come before. But, again, cultural stuff I know nothing about, so let’s just focus on the movie.
The acting was very strong and I got a real sense of familiarity and caring between Ed and Sarah. Pollyanna McIntosh was convincing as the terrified out of her mind Sarah once the action starts, and none of the scenes where she fights back felt forced or as if the writer (Ian Fenton, “Byker Grove”) or director (Simeon Halligan, Splintered) felt the need to make her evolve into this unstoppable revenge machine, taking out pig-man after pig-man in retaliation for the death of her husband. And I thank God that wasn’t the route this movie took. In fact–spoilers–Ed wasn’t killed … in the initial attack. Whether he made it out of the movie alive or not, that’s not for me to say in a review.
The menace presented by the pig-men, in the dead of night, in the Scottish countryside–the REMOTE countryside, at that–felt very real and unexpected. I also appreciated that it felt natural. A big Hollywood version of this story, with a focus group and a multi million dollar budget, would have given the invaders booby traps or Sarah would have had a number of inventive and brutal kills as she mows through the pig-men. But this movie didn’t go any of those routes, and that greatly increased my enjoyment. Watching Blood Lands I felt like I could be seeing what a real-life version of these events could look like, and that added a visceral level to it.
I don’t think there is necessarily a lot of SUBSTANCE to this movie, unless of course you’re Scottish and hate the English, in which case this may just be your porn. Who am I to say? Myself, I just liked seeing Pollyanna McIntosh in a movie where she wasn’t mute or playing some weird character. Sundresses and cell phones suit her. Recommended? Yeah, Blood Lands was a fun movie, as long as you don’t mind that last scene that undercuts all the danger that came before. Give it a go if you like the home invasion genre.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.