16th Mar2018

Starburst Festival 2018: ‘A Welcoming Place’ Review

by Philip Rogers

Stars: Daniel J. Layton, Cael King, Francesca Louise White | Written and Directed by Sam Saffold


Whilst still mourning the death of his father, Philip (Daniel J. Layton) ventures out into the remote countryside to locate a secret cottage owned by his father. Upon arriving he his is surprised to find the house is already occupied by a couple Terrance (Cael King) and his wife Nina (Francesca Louise White). Although welcoming, Philip instantly develops a feeling of uncertainty towards the couple due to their inhibited and somewhat awkward behaviour. Despite feeling uneasy about the situation Philip decides to stay anyway, seeing the house as a fresh. But as Philip continues to struggle coming to terms with his father passing, he soon turns his attention towards the other occupants of the house. Suspecting they have something to hide, he begins to follow them in search of answer, but when the truth comes to light will like what he discovers?

A Welcoming Place may be a debut film for writer/director Sam Saffold, but it is an ambitious short which manages to deliver both visually AND emotionally. This is a beautifully shot short, which seamlessly incorporates elements of sci-fi and an unnerving sense of horror, guiding the audience on an emotional journey without giving too much away. We follow Philip as he tries to come to terms with the loss of his father, as he also uncovers details of his secrets of his past which he was unable to talk to his father about whilst he was still alive. The opening line to the film by Philip sums it up, as he tells his sister in the phone “I think I am lost”.  He may be describing his location after being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, but it manages to highlight his emotional state of mind perfectly.

The film gradually builds up the tense atmosphere thanks to the creative cinematography and the brilliant score. The beautiful landscape shots during the day highlight the beauty of the area, whilst capturing the remoteness of the location. Whilst the scenes at night uncover a more claustrophobic and enclosed feel, with shadows and lighting creating an eerie sense of uncertainty. The supporting score is also well incorporated into the scenes, gradually building up momentum without overshadowing the performances.

Daniel J. Layton is perfectly cast as the struggling Philip, who has a sense of loneliness following the loss of his father and despite his understated performance, where he comes across naturally, you can really sympathise with his character. In contrast Cael King as Terrance and Francesca Louise White as Nina have an awkwardness to their personalities and despite welcoming Philip, seem uncomfortable in their interaction. Terrance in particular, who is constantly apologetic and often gets confused when describing events of the past, only seems to raise further suspicion and ambiguity regarding the pairs true intensions.

There are several elements of A Welcoming Place which are never fully explored, leaving various questions about the characters and the way they act unexplained. The same could also be said for some of the visual aspects where the view is distorted. Although this may frustrate some viewers, I think it works well for the short, adding to the already mysterious element of the characters and gets you thinking about the events after the film.

A Welcoming Place is a clever concept which creates an interesting perspective regarding the ideology of how we fear things which we don’t understand. It is a film which you feel as though you HAVE to watch again, and when you do the series of events may create a very different perspective…

As a debut film for Sam Saffold A Welcoming Place provides an impressive starting platform and I am looking forward to seeing what he can produce in the future.

A Welcoming Place screens at the 2018 Starburst MediaCity Festival on Saturday March 17th at 5.05pm


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