A couple receives a violent housewarming gift in the form of a home invasion in The Blood Lands, now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD from Magnolia Pictures. For our latest Q&A feature, we recently caught up with The Blood Lands director Simeon Halligan.

Thanks for taking the time to converse with us today, Simeon. What elements from The Blood Lands screenplay attracted you to telling this story onscreen?

Simeon Halligan: First and foremost, Ian Fenton's screenplay was just so tense. We always knew it wasn't a complicated plot, it didnt have major character complexities but it was a page-turner, a script you couldn't put down as soon as you started reading it. A simple intriguing premise. You wanted to know what the threat was, supernatural or physical? Once you knew, then you wanted to know why our couple were being terrorised, all the while rooting for them to survive the intense ordeal. You really can envisage the spaces and the action within Ian's writing, it's nail-biting stuff! I sent the screenplay to Pollyanna McIntosh late one evening and asked her to read it in her own time; would she consider playing Sarah? When I awoke the next morning, I already had a message from her, saying she hadn't been able to put it down and read it all in one sitting, she loved it and wanted to do it!

Also the script and the film has something to say about intolerance and the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. The premise that a moneyed English couple move to a poor area of the Scottish borders and find themselves the victims of the locals long harbored anger and distrust, connected with the recent bid for Scottish independence, gaining it further coverage in the UK. Amusingly some press dubbed it 'The Scottish referendum horror movie!' And with Pollyanna being Scottish born and playing an English woman, this made for even more intrigue!

Where did filming take place and what did that environment add aesthetically and atmospherically to your movie?

Simeon Halligan: Locations were a very important and integral part of the film. Initially, I wanted to build sets for the house interiors. Ian had described the layout in some detail in his script and much of the tension in the piece rose from how our protagonists avoid capture within this environment. I could see the layout of the house and grounds in some detail in my mind's eye. But the limited budget meant that we could not afford to build a big composite set and we would need to find a location that would do everything. So the task of finding the farm house, grounds and surrounding countryside became a very important part of the pre-production process.

We shot in the Peak district area of the UK (doubling for the Scottish borders) and looked at many potential farm buildings. Eventually we found an atmospheric isolated farmstead, one which I felt, with a few changes to the action within the script, could work. Then I spend a very long day with the screenwriter walking around all the spaces figuring out how the action could be modified slightly to work in this real space.

Do you have any favorite home invasion films that influenced your approach to The Blood Lands?

Simeon Halligan: I'm a fan of films like Them (ILs, 2006) and The Strangers (2008), films that build up unbearable tension and I could see The Bloodlands following in their footsteps. The film has been compared in some quarters to Straw Dogs, of which I'm honoured but I don't personally see much of a similarity. And when it was doing the rounds of festivals last year, some people said it was jumping on the back of You're Next because of the animal mask motif, but we only became aware of that film whist in the middle of shooting and so, as often is the case, by the time it was released people made comparisons. It's weird how these things happen.

What was the most challenging scene to shoot? 

Simeon Halligan: Probably the final scene in the city. Reason being we tried to capture this in the main body of the shoot but as our budget was pretty limited, I was asked to try and shoot it in a small town near the rural locations we were working at. It just didn't work because what we needed was the juxtaposition of open country to busy city and so in the end we had to incorporate it into the couple of days pickups that we shot later on.

With The Blood Lands now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD, what do you have on deck that you can tease for our readers, and where can they find you on social media?

Simeon Halligan: Well, I have a couple of new projects in the pipeline. As they often vie for pole position as the development process on each film changes, it now looks like our next will likely be Habit, a gritty story set in the underbelly of the city of Manchester, that focuses on cannibal activities! I've written the screenplay based on a novel by new writer Stephen McGeagh. And then I have Dearly Beheaded, a gory comedy of errors and The Besieged, a good old fashioned monster movie! And between all that I also run Manchester's fantastic film festival, Grimmfest! Find us here: @grimmfest, @simeonh, www.notanumber.co.uk, grimmfest.com, www.facebook.com/simeon.halligan.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.