A Lonely Place to Die (2011)
“Out there, there’s nowhere to hide”
Director: Julian Gilbey
Cast: Alec Newman, Ed Speleers, Melissa George
Synopsis: A group of mountaineers in the Scottish Highlands discover a kidnapped girl and are pursued by her captors.
The opening premise of A Lonely Place to Die leads the audience to believe we are heading into familiar horror territory in which a group of ordinary people are hunted down and killed by some unseen creature or, at the very least, inbred humans. Admittedly, Britain doesn’t have the vast, remote spaces in which this kind of family activity can thrive, but it does have a region called the fens in East Anglia, and the highlands of Scotland. So, when A Lonely Place to Die opened with dizzying views of rugged highland scenery it was only natural to expect as much.
The first 20 minutes or so follows the usual format of introducing us to the main characters/potential victims and, given the dynamics of their interaction it doesn’t take too much cerebral muscle to figure out who will be the last two standing. There’s Rob (Alec Newman), the nominal leader of the group, a good-looking alpha-male, although not in an in-your-face way; he has a kind of calmness that results in a natural elevation to the lead position of the group.
He’s also an accomplished climber — which is the reason this small, doomed group has gathered together in the wilds of Scotland – as is Alison (Melissa George), his foxy Aussie girlfriend who quickly establishes a faintly antagonistic relationship with Rob‘s friend Ed (Ed Speleers), who might not be as accomplished a climber as the others, but does nevertheless possess the kind of self-confidence that rubs many people up the wrong way. Making up the group are X and Y, a couple so blandly realised by Julian and Will Gilbey’s script that you just know they’re not going to be around too long.
The various relationships between these five are established during an evening’s drinking and card-playing which leaves no doubt that the women are the strong and confident type, and that the men are prone to typically petty rivalries, but which gives no real insight into their personalities. The following morning they set off on their disastrous journey, and it’s not long before they stumble across a breathing pipe in the ground and realise that someone is buried alive beneath them. Uncovering a large wooden crate, they open the lid to discover a frightened girl inside who speaks no English, and realise they must get her back to civilisation before whoever put her into the ground comes back to see how she’s getting on.
It’s fair to say that, while A Lonely Place to Die rattles along at a fair old pace that ensures the audience never grows bored, it fails to move quick enough to disguise the gaping holes and inconsistencies in its plot. It’s one of those movies in which apparently intelligent people do stupid things. For example, two cold-blooded killers cut the rope of one abseiler, sending him hurtling past his companion to his death, leaving her clinging perilously to a sheer cliff edge. She’s a sitting target, easy pickings for a gunman, but instead of shooting at her, the bad guys proceed to throw rocks down on her. Then, when they finally manage to dislodge their target and send her crashing onto the river below, they don’t bother to hang around for a minute or two to see if she resurfaces, which she does — frequently, it seems: director Julian Gilbey likes the effect of his camera rushing to the water’s surface so much that he treats us to it about five times.
Melissa George makes a gutsy and believable lead – although I don’t believe even a character as strong as hers could survive a 20-or-more foot fall without feeling at least the odd twinge or two for the rest of the day — and there’s merit in the fact that the film steers away from the obvious course of developing a romantic interest between her and Ed once she and he becomes the last two standing.
A Lonely Place to Die’s final twenty minutes plays like an almost different movie, with our battered heroes stumbling upon what looks like a pagan festival in a remote village straight out of The Wicker Man (1973 version), and quickly developing a sense of paranoia as they inspect with suspicion the nice chocolate cake offered to them by a cuddly PC. And they’re right to be on their guard because before you know it they’ve passed right through The Wicker Man (1973 version) territory and straight into Assault on Precinct 13 land when the police station comes under heavy gunfire. By then, though, A Lonely Place to Die has become so far-fetched as to be irrelevant. For those who require no logic or sense from their movies, A Lonely Place to Die will provide an adequate 90 minutes of entertainment, the rest will be left a little annoyed that an evident talent for moviemaking has been let down by poor storytelling ability.