Notable Cast: Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Eamonn Walker, Karel Roden, Sean Harris
Review: I can think of some lonely places to die, but mother nature really has a way of making you feel so depressingly insignificant. Even the loneliest of 40-year-old virgins still living in their parent’s basement would rather die right on that plastic covered couch over the sprawling open terrain of the desolate great outdoors. A Lonely Place To Die is a situational horror flick, opting not to use sadistic mountain dwelling cannibals or stalking creatures thirsty for blood. No, the horror of Gilbey’s film comes from what could be a real life scenario for what it’s worth. Let’s be honest, extreme rock climbing can be a horrifying enough of an experience to some, so we don’t even need to throw in the heightened risk of death to stun a handful of viewers. This is a wrong place, wrong time, wrong outdoor activity kind of horror thriller sure to raise hairs on even the most daring outdoor sports enthusiasts.
Deep in the Scottish Highlands, a group of mountain climbers set out for an adrenaline filled adventure. The experienced Alison (George) heads her group of friends (Speelers, Alec Newman, Kate Magowan, Garry Sweeney) as they go deeper into the terrain, traversing the treacherous cliffs and sprawling landscape. During a mandatory bathroom break though, Ed (Speelers) hears faint cries coming from even deeper into the woods. Upon investigation, the explorers find what looks like an air tube sticking straight out of the ground voicing the cry. After digging up the earth in the area, the group lifts the lid on a wooden box and finds a small Serbian girl cowering in the corner. Acting on their instincts, they quickly get the small child out of the box and try to communicate but find she speaks no English. With no choice, our heroes make a break for the closest town. The problem? The trip can either be about a 20 mile hike around a spot only known as Devil’s Drop, or a 3 mile hike taking on the intimidating cliff face. Mind you the small child is still in tow, but their decision becomes time critical when two men start hunting the group in order to steal back the child. Alison’s good deed may cost her and the others their lives, but there is no time for reflection. Survival becomes their only choice.
For Melissa George’s first real leading horror/action role, the Aussie brings a lot of fear and desperation to the character of Alison…
Right off the bat, A Lonely Place To Die uses some gorgeous cinematography by Ali Asad to set the desolate atmosphere. Gilbey’s movie had a good amount of sequences showing the characters traversing these gigantic cliff formations, and Asad captures the danger in these acts by putting our characters in perspective. Whether he has the camera pulled far off the mountain, painting the actors as these tiny little ants on the side of this gigantic rock face, or giving us the downward view through the eyes of the actors, showing the deadly drop that awaits their slightest miscues, the shots keep us breathless. Asad captures the horrific beauty of nature, being both our clichéd best friend or worst enemy. All that open air, soothing silence, limitless possibilities, and primitive freedom go from main selling point to scariest features when panic sets in, and Asad captures both drastic sides of the spectrum.
I’m also loving me some Melissa George (30 Days of Night/Triangle) after that brilliant performance, helping Asad to bring out the desperation in A Lonely Place To Die. The most intense scenes of the film were watching characters like Alison have to scale these monstrous rock walls with limited to no gear. Yeah, gripping and tense enough as is, but our characters make us feel the helplessness at the same time. It doesn’t matter how pretty the setting looks if the characters can’t keep us in involved. But as our climbers dangle hopelessly above a rock covered fate, their lives relying thinly on a thin strand of rope, we can sense the obvious fear flooding out of the climbers. George and Speelers hold strong on this front, engrossing us in the thrilling excitement A Lonely Place To Die brings. Even the most experienced characters show fear, keeping in perspective the severity of the situation. But just as the “good” characters were emotionally on par, our villainous characters Mr. Kidd (Harris) and Mr. Mcrae (Stephen McCole) were a good match for the career criminals. Just as the climbers showed us fear, the villains did equally as well striking fear into the other characters. Their unwavering attitudes brought intensity to the film, watching how nothing at all shook their spirits when focusing on the violent goal at hand. They proceeded like Terminator robots, killing without remorse and showing no mercy to those around. But, they were real characters (be it on the extremist side), and the horror comes from the realization that people are willing to do anything for a payday (the horrific circumstances that involve their intentions and the child). True horror comes from plausibility, and sadly people are depraved enough to make such a crime possible.
Gilbey attracted a lot of attention at festivals like the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, with people calling a return to well-rounded British horror. I don’t buy the full horror genre tag here, being more of a situational thriller, but there is definitely a horrifying element buried deep in the story. It was nice to see the film could be equally as effective when the story busted out of the woods and into a crowded town in full celebration party mode as well. The chaos carries over, switching the atmosphere from wide-open to claustrophobic, and ends in a nice fulfilling wrap up. Melissa George brings a strong female lead to life in Alison, and stacks up against any male lead in comparison. She doesn’t surpass the great Sigourney Weaver (Alien) in this respect, but Alison is a testament to the strong-willed female characters people like Weaver have made famous. Genuinely tense but a tad recycled at times, A Lonely Place To Die ironically is a great place to go when in need for a jarring outdoor thriller. And you thought mountain climbing was gasp inducing enough…
Final Rating: 7.5 rocky roads out of 10
Mmmm….the last thing you want to see in this situation is something coming down at you….