“Estranged,” a horror film that debuted at the recent Newport Beach Film Festival, taps into one of the most basic and primal of fears. After a horrific traffic accident, a young woman named January (Amy Manson) returns home to be with her family. Unfortunately, she has no memories of the people sitting around the kitchen table.
Simon Quarterman, who plays January’s boyfriend Callum, said the idea for the film came during a discussion at actor Craig Conway’s home. He pointed out that because she can’t walk and has no memory, January’s completely incarcerated in every way. “We were all discussing an idea; we wanted to shoot a film together,” Quarterman explained when reached by phone for an interview. “We spitballed a few ideas around the table that night; some were good, some were less good. And then actually Simon [Fantauzzo] came up with an idea of a girl with amnesia coming home to her parents.”
Callum escorts his injured girlfriend to the family’s isolated manor home, but January’s relatives don’t take too kindly to him. Only Thomas, the butler played by Craig Conway, has any sympathy at all for the newcomers. “The film is so effective in the respect that one of the scariest things that could ever happen to anyone is not remembering anything. So you become imprisoned in a mind that you don’t really understand,” he said. “And then coming home to somewhere like ‘Wow, these people are my family.’”
A beautiful prison
In “Estranged,” the manor home in which the family resides becomes a character in its own right. Quarterman said that the cast and crew actually lived in the house during the 2011 shoot.
“So we never ever left this house, which was in the middle of nowhere. Which again really helps the film; there was really no way out, even if she finds a way out,” he explained. “It was such a beautiful house; we shot in it just outside of Newcastle in the North of England. It was a beautiful, beautiful house that we were lucky to have. The beauty of it juxtaposed with the malice underneath really worked very, very well for sure.”
Quarterman also praised his co-stars James Lance, Nora-Jane Noone, Eileen Nicholas and James Cosmo for creating such beautifully-rounded characters. The actors obviously enjoyed working with the story created by William Borthwick and Simon Fantauzzo.
“[The family members] are all very odd in their own way. It was very interesting watching those guys come up with these characters. They really made that space and that setting even more disturbing,” he said. “There’s a real Old World feel to those guys as well. They are quintessentially British, but like what quintessential Brits were a long time ago. They are sort of being kept in this bizarre little pocket because of that lack of communication with society. They have no idea about what is really going on outside.”
The actor welcomed the chance to see the film appear at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Looking ahead, Quarterman expects to shoot for five or six months on his new television series “Westworld.” Based on the movie of the same name, the show takes place in a futuristic amusement park filled with life-like robots. “There’s a long shoot ahead, I am incredibly excited by that,” he said.