Private Project

Rare Blood

This harrowing story was inspired by true events.

A demure wife returns home from a trip abroad all fired up to take her failing marriage in hand. A little too late, as her crazed husband has been hacking into her online accounts and together with his cunning sister, they’ve hatched a plan to make sure she leaves the farm with nothing.

A South African film set in a remote area of the Dargle in KwaZulu Natal. Keira (Annie Robinson) arrives home with her daughter, Emma (Ella Grealy) from an overseas trip to find her sister-in-law, Olga (Fiona Ramsay), running the farm in her absence. Unbeknown to Keira, her crazy, drugged up husband, Panos (Brendan Grealy), and Olga have hatched a plan to get rid of her. Panos has hacked into her online accounts and finds evidence of her having a conversation with a mysterious ‘Irishman’.

The isolated Keira has a friendship with Gunther, (Mark Mulder) who is helping Panos with his IT business in exchange for a rent-free cottage on their farm. Keira confides in Gunther and he warns her about Panos’ intentions to cut her off financially.

Keira has no time to act as she prepares for a business dinner that has been arranged at the house by Olga. The dinner is tense and particularly embarrassing for Keira as her husband demeans her in front of the guests. Panos appears to be having a manic episode and Keira, trying to please, manages to secure the business deal. Olga has made arrangements to stay with her friend, a two hour’s drive away, so she can fly to Johannesburg the next day. She asks Gunther to drive her to Connie’s house in Ballito to which he reluctantly agrees, concerned to leave Keira alone with the unstable Panos.

As soon as everyone has gone, Panos sets his plan into action. He asks Keira to back up all the work she has done for him and then demands a divorce. Keira is caught off guard and tries to reason with him. Panos, by this stage, is as high as a kite and with no regard for his daughter, he takes out his gun and launches a terrifying tirade on Keira and Emma. Keira calls her ailing father, Patrick (Graham Clarke) who tries to locate Gunther.

All hell breaks loose and Keira’s only hope is the arrival of Gunther. The film descends into a dystopian nightmare with twists and turns, layers within layers as Keira tries to protect her daughter from a dangerous situation.

Rare Blood has an interesting and different exploration of Gender-based violence (GBV) and abusive relationships, instead of focusing solely on the issue of abuse itself, abuse can be seen as a symptom of the greater, overarching problem/ disorder (narcissism) which is highlighted as the root cause of abuse and the exertion of control over the character Keira. If read in this light, and placed in the broader context of South Africa, and a global context, Rare Blood could be viewed as a comment on societal GBV, suggesting GBV and/abuse can also be read as a symptom of an inherent, underlying societal condition. (i..e. Patriarchy for example).

  • Brett Halliday
    First feature film.
  • Gillian O'Donoghue
    First feature script.
  • Brett Halliday
    Several spec scripts & TV series written
  • Brett Halliday
    First feature film production.
  • Gillian O'Donoghue
    First feature film production.
  • Brendan Grealy
    Key Cast
    "Panos "
    The Angel, the Bicycle and the Chinaman's Finger, White Lion, Jock, a true tale of Friendship.
  • Annie Robinson
    Key Cast
    The Power of One, Riverhorse Lake, Uncle Max, Cycle Simenon.
  • Mark Mulder
    Key Cast
    Ali, American Kick-boxer, The Last Victims, Barrett.
  • Fiona Ramsay
    Key Cast
    Black Sails, Maze Runner, Chappie, The Dark Tower, Wild at Heart.
  • Graham Clarke
    Key Cast
    Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom, Black Sails, Ali, Stander, The Wild Geese.
  • Ashley Dowds
    Key Cast
    Shadow, Mandela's Gun, Warrior, Wild at Heart, Scouts Safari, Inside Story, Deep State.
  • Janna Ramos Violante
    Key Cast
    Starry Night, The Wrongs Mans, The Wild.
  • Ella Grealy
    Key Cast
  • Sizwe Mzizi
    Key Cast
    "Sgt. Vusi"
  • Hlengewe Zondi
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Psychological Thriller
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 25 minutes 31 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 31, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    8,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    South Africa
  • Country of Filming:
    South Africa
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
    2.35 : 1
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • None
Distribution Information
  • None as yet.
Director Biography - Brett Halliday

Brett, a graduate of the New York Film Academy in LA, has written several spec scripts and episodes for television series. With Gillian O'Donoghue he co-penned and directed the thriller feature, Rare Blood. He has three projects in development, The Wake a psychological drama set in 1960''s Republic of Ireland, The Man in the Mirror, a psychological drama set in South Africa, and Blood Moon, a Gothic horror set in Pembrokeshire, Wales. He is a highly graded karate instructor, former world champion, a father, and a Chiropractor.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

After years of striving, with no one prepared to back me directing my film projects (though many were willing to option my scripts) I was left with no option other than independently funding my first feature. The challenge was firstly to pen a script that was riveting, but set mainly in a single location. The second challenge was to make a film with a high production value, and to attach a talented cast and crew. The objectives set, my partner Gillian O’Donoghue and I set about writing the script, and collaborating with like-minded individuals to develop the project.

Rare Blood secured, as word of mouth grew, an A list South African cast, and a talented and dedicated crew. With the objective of producing a film with a high production value we secured eclectic and picturesque locations all within a tight geographical radius. And Gillian painstakingly chose the cast costumes and devised a colour palate that embellished genre and the story. We planned to shoot and edit in a manner that exuded a high budget, and we believe we achieved this.

We shot our feature in a torrid intense schedule, and are proud to introduce Rare Blood, an edge of your seat psychological thriller with powerful believable performances and stunning visuals, exhibiting a production value that belies the meagre budget.

1. Synopsis: This unique South African film is set in the Dargle in KwaZulu Natal. Keira (Annie Robinson) arrives home to find her sister in law, Olga (Fiona Ramsay) running the farm in her absence. Unbeknown to Keira, her husband, Panos (Brendan Grealy) has hacked into her facebook account and has found evidence of her having a conversation with an 'Irishman'. Panos is about to blow as his sister tries to calm him by manipulating him into changing his will. The situation is further complicated when Gunther, (Mark Mulder) Panos' long time business colleague, who lives in a cottage 'rent free' on the farm begins to get involved. A once longed for dream of a life in the country turns into a dystopian family nightmare. Rare Blood takes you into the belly of what a dysfunctional family really means as the young teenager, Emma (Ella Grealy) gets caught in the crossfire. This complex psychological thriller will take you into a world that is at once both twisted and tragic.

2. The Script: Inspired by true events, the adaption was handled in a manner to capture the harrowing experience of the mother and child, and retain the emotional core, while embellishing the material incorporating sub plots and a twist to enhance the viewer's experience.

Psychological thrillers give the audience a peek into a spine chilling world they otherwise may not have entered. Panos is on the verge of a breakdown. He is paranoid and his sister, Olga, is manipulating him to get what she wants. Keira arrives home after a trip abroad to a very tense situation. Rare Blood is a mind-bending film and will have you confronting your own sense of morality and asking hard questions. The plot is unpredictable with twists and turns!

Often violence and hatred are a way of life passed from one generation to the next. You say it’s in their blood when people are bad, like it’s an excuse. Sometimes you can get away with just about anything..... Rare Blood takes you into the minds of a deeply disturbed family with terrifying consequences.

3. Colour palette and Costume design: In Rare Blood colour is used to psychologically communicate, convey subtle nuances and symbolism into the story. The characters in Rare Blood wear clothes with colours that drive the story forward and that harmonise with the backgrounds. Panos is introduced to the audience wearing his dusty blue denim shirt. The reason we chose blue denim is to allude to his part wild, anti-establishment and mercurial character. Olga enters in her blazing red sweater and silky leopard scarf and we immediately sense trouble brewing in this intelligent and complex story.

4. Production Design & the Location: The remote farm house is anything but cosy. Cold, concrete floors with a Persian rug here and there, buck heads with sharp horns, inverted pitch forks for wall lamps, spiky ‘Mother in law tongue’ pot plants, Doric type Greek columns which support the loft above, the exaggerated horse painting and the pink and blue sofas combine together to hint at what’s to come in the movie Rare Blood. Everything is placed strategically and illustrates the many layers in this twisted psychological thriller.

5. Shooting style. We were, owing to financial restraints, compelled to shoot from the hip, albeit we had every shot planned with the view of firstly securing adequate coverage of each scene, whilst also employing the camera to illustrate the mood of the scene/character, but without drawing attention to the camera, and without resorting to "tricks" that would draw attention away from the dramatic tension. The lighting needed to be effective in creating the mood, yet efficient and quick as our time was precious. We were fortunate to have experienced cinematographer Devin Carter who was both creative and artistic, yet incredibly efficient. The efficiency regarding lighting a scene was achieved by Barry Downard's ingenious lighting design, where he designed "pools of lighting" both exterior and interior that was efficient, yet moody.

6. Sound and score. We needed to, on a limited budget, layer the sound economically, yet in a manner that exuded budget. This was tediously complied by Neil Campbell and Marciano Monjane Rebello (also sound recordist), after doing a full days work. The texturing of the sound design was woven with a view to subliminally affecting the viewers viewing experience. The score needed to be interwoven with the selected original songs, and be powerful enough to exhibit the conflict, yet not appear to be pretentious or imposing. The composer Anthony Downing painstakingly wove a specific motif into each character thus embellishing the story and individual arcs of the characters.

7. Social message. The film’s thematic undertones explore the issues of gender-based violence by portraying violence as a symptom of the characters’ inherent dysfunction and disorder. The film highlights the relationship between dysfunction and abuse, suggesting gender-based violence can be read as a symptom of a greater, overarching societal condition, or dysfunction.

Many of society's problems stem from dysfunctional family units and Rare Blood addresses these social issues by weaving the plot around a conniving, narcissistic family. With the breakdown of the nuclear family in contemporary society, and blurring of absolutes, the impact of social media narcissism is on the increase. Rare Blood strives to illustrate how destructive narcissism is to the family unit.