A Lonely Place to Die Review
An attempt to blend the horror and thriller genres in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands is only intermittently successful in A Lonely Place To Die, the bloody and brutal new film from Julian Gilbey (Rise of the Footsoldier). There are some interesting ideas at play in the script by Julian and brother Will, but the film loses all credibility during a third act which disintegrates in to a rather silly mess. One could describe it as equal parts Cliffhanger, The 39 Steps and The Wicker Man, but the result is not nearly as interesting as that comparison might suggest. What salvages it are a few effective action sequences and another strong lead performance by Melissa George, who seems to be cornering the market in playing thirty-something horror heroines (see also Triangle and 30 Days of Night).
On a climbing holiday in Scotland, a group of five friends, including Alison (George) and Ed (Ed Speleers), discover a young girl buried in an underground chamber. After rescuing her they decide to fetch help from the nearest town, which involves splitting the party up. But it soon becomes apparent that the girl is part of a major kidnapping plot by a ruthless gang of international criminals who are determined to retrieve the girl, get the ransom and eliminate the would-be rescuers.
For two thirds of its running time, A Lonely Place To Die manages to be a decent enough wilderness thriller. There are a couple of memorable set-pieces involving a cliff face, one of which ends rather painfully, and Gilbey does a reasonable job in ratcheting up the tension. The Highland landscapes are both beautiful and forboding, and a sense of isolation is nicely established, even if it does feel somewhat derivative; the twin shadows of Neil Marshall’s recent thrillers (Dog Soldiers and The Descent) loom large in the memory.
Unfortunately the kidnap plot then arrives, and what an outrageously daft plot it is. It starts off promisingly enough with some extremely nasty individuals on the trail of the group of climbers and the rescued girl; a great sequence involving a shootout across a ravine being the highlight. But then you start to wonder why on earth the kidnappers would choose Scotland to hide their victim from eastern Europe? Are there really no other remote holes in the ground on the continent? It is to George’s credit in particular that the film, though straining credibility, remains involving; a stiff Speleers fails to match her in terms of either sympathy or action moves. The script is a bit ropey in places too, though Karel Roden as a sort of cut-price Tim Roth does get to chew on a lengthy monologue towards the end.
We then arrive at the frankly bizarre final act in the nearby town, and the film suddenly veers in to an action movie take on The Wicker Man. For no discernible reason, a pagan festival, complete with naked dancers and a variety of animal head masks, is in mid-flow. Certainly some Scottish towns are remote, but isn’t this going a little too far? Even The Wicker Man had the good sense to set its story on a largely inaccessible island. Meanwhile the kidnappers and ransom-payers are shooting up the entire place without anyone seeming to notice. An extended final chase fails to recover what little plausibility the film had to begin with.
A Lonely Place To Die will best be served by finding its natural home as a late Friday night schedule-filler on TV. It certainly pales in comparison with, say, Christopher Smith’s Triangle - probably Melissa George’s best film to date. But if you’re in the mood for some low-budget, horror-tinged outdoor thrills, then it might be worth a look.