A Lonely Place to Die (2011)
By: Stuart Giesel August 24, 2012  | 
Eagle Entertainment | Region 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 95 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Julian Gilbey
Starring: Melissa George, Alec Newman, Ed Speleers, Sean Harris, Holly Boyd
Screenplay: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey
Country: UK
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Part Deliverance, part Cliffhanger, part generic action film set in a small Scottish town that seems to be more populated than New York, A Lonely Place to Die works well when it keeps to its strengths - that is, the survival-horror-on-a-mountain stuff. Unfortunately the film squanders all the good that has come before with a poorly executed second half that feels like it's been cobbled together from some other movie. Ultimately the good stuff outweighs the bad, but you walk away feeling like this is a bit of a missed opportunity to craft something truly chilling.

Five mountaineers led by Rob (Alec Newman) and Alison (Melissa George) are doing their thing in the Scottish Highlands when they happen across a young girl buried in a box in the ground. Thankfully instead of acting like clueless twits they realise that something bad is afoot and hightail it with the girl to the nearest town which happens to be quite some distance away and, to put it lightly, a tad treacherous. Unfortunately for them, the kidnappers soon realise their prized possession is missing and hunt the mountaineers down.

Watching A Lonely Place to Die (hereafter referred to as ALPTD) is an exercise in frustration, though perhaps it was due to my expectation that this was to be something of a modern-day take on Deliverance. Well, the first half of ALPTD gave me everything I was expecting of something in the Deliverance vein (sans rape): lush if ominous scenery, pared-down performances, a foreboding atmosphere and the threat of violence at every turn. The cinematography is pretty spectacular, and there are some nice Lord of the Rings-style scenery pans to emphasise the isolation of our main characters. The early scenes of the mountaineers fleeing with the girl whilst being pursued by marksmen are excellent. The tension is strong and you really care for the characters since even the most annoying one (Ed Speelers' Ed) is still likeable in a way. Deaths, when they come, don't feel over-staged, but quite naturalistic and, therefore, more shocking. The bad guys - though terrible shots with their sniper rifles when the plot requires it - aren't quite as menacing as Deliverance's horrible duo but they're still nasty enough, particularly Sean Harris who has the sort of face that will probably see him typecast in bad guys roles for the rest of his career.

It is in these earlier stages that ALPTD works best, even though there are some niggling issues. I'm no mountain climber but you'd think you'd be packing some decent climbing gloves with you. And the kidnappers act awfully carelessly when it comes to trying to secure the girl; considering how valuable she is to their whole kidnapping plan, you'd think they'd be a bit more careful with their guns around her. Still, you don't mind so much as long as ALPTD keeps ratcheting up the tension. Unfortunately the film goes way downhill (fnar, fnar) when our heroes arrive at some Scottish village where there's some totally fantastical and unconvincing street parade that threatens to out-Carnaval Rio's Carnaval. Here, ALPTD turns from a strongly executed wilderness survival thriller to a choppy Die Hard-light action film that, at times, feels more like a piss-take in the style of Hot Fuzz than the real thing. It also doesn't help that the focus turns from the mountaineers to a trio of mercenaries who have been hired to recover the kidnapped girl. It's not that this section is bad per se, it's just unremarkable compared with such a solid first part.

Acting is decent. Melissa George is a strong, likeable heroine even if she can't get an American accent right. Ed Speelers (probably best known from that monumental abortion Eragon) seems to be the most honest and realistic of the bunch - he questions the motives of the group, mirroring the sort of things I was thinking of sitting on my fat arse watching the screen with a beer in my hand and wondering what I would do in the same situation (probably shit my pants, curl up into a ball and await death). The others who manage to make an impression are the aforementioned Harris, and Holly Boyd as Anna who manages to overcome that massive hurdle faced by all child actors in a horror or thriller: she is nowhere near as annoying as she could have been. Compared to the execrable Bob in Lucio Fulci's House by the Cemetary - the gold standard in annoying cinematic kids - she ranks about a three out of ten on the "burst my eardrums so I can't hear 'em" scale.

Technically the film is strong. Editing and cinematography, for the first half at least, are top notch, and the stunts are well staged. The rapport between the friends works well, or at least well enough that it doesn't feel like five actors getting together for the day and reading their lines. There's not terribly much blood for the gorehound other than a few splattery bullet wounds, so be warned, but it's certainly got that Deliverance feel where less is sometimes more. And then, of course, comes the second half. Bleurgh. If only writer/director Julian Gilbey had kept the action on the mountain and prolonged some of the psychological aspects of the terror, he would have had a real winner on his hands.
The DVD provides excellent picture quality, particularly in the first half with its stunning mountain vistas and lush greenery. Picture clarity is excellent, colours are vibrant and detail is surprisingly good considering this isn't a Blu-Ray.
Both the DTS and the 5.1 English tracks are, as one might expect, suitably atmospheric and immersive, though the majority of action is delivered by the front and centre speakers with the rears providing the necessary goods like surround-sound action where whizzing bullets, rushing water, fireworks and the like come into play.
Extra Features
The DVD contains two features. The first, Julian's The Challenge of the Alps charts director Julian Gilbey's attempt to climb three major peaks following the filming of A Lonely Place to Die in support of charity. This feature is decent enough and provides a number of hair-curling (and sickening) camera shots and a solid reminder of why I would never attempt such a thing (along with being massively unfit, that is). The second, The Making of A Lonely Place to Die is a very good hour-long making of which forgoes most of the usual "blah blah was so nice to work with" soundbites and rehashing of footage from the movie we've already seen and provides us with some fascinating details about the making of what looked to be quite a difficult production. Hell, even the storyboarding process for ALPTD looked like a bitch compared to most other movies.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
A Lonely Place to Die could have been this decade's Deliverance but unfortunately it sabotages what might have been an exciting, taut, and terrifying package by attaching a half-baked Ransom-like hostage actioner to its tail. At its best, it's definitely worth watching; just don't expect the good stuff to last.

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