Judge Daryl Loomis wears a pig mask to sleep at night.
Out here, there's nowhere to hide.
Looking down over the sheerest cliffs in Scotland, which we have plenty of time for in A Lonely Place to Die, it makes me wonder what it must take for somebody to climb up these things. All I can think of is madness, but I can't deny that such crazy activities make for suspenseful films. From writer, director, and editor Julian Gilbey (Rise of the Footsoldier), this is horror-tinged action done right, with good performances and high altitude thrills that totally satisfy.
Facts of the Case
Alison (Melissa George, Dark City) and her friends have come to the Scottish highlands for a hardcore rock climbing expedition, but as soon as they embark, they hear a strange voice in the forest. Upon investigation, a pipe in the ground projects the voice and, underneath, a young girl who can't speak English has been buried in a box, alone with no food or water. They rescue the girl and try to escape, but those who put her there are quickly on their tails, chasing these outsiders around terrain they know well and equipped with more firepower than the bungee cords the rock climbers carry.
A Lonely Place to Die succeeds on its believability even more than on its vertigo-inducing climbing scenes, which are natural tension builders. Our quintet of climbers is average in every way, except for the rock climbing, of course, just everyday people on a regular activity. They aren't even your usual group of morons about to meet their fate. They're easily relatable so, once the audience is put in their shoes, the film asks the question, "What would you do?" upon finding a little girl buried alive. The only logical answer is to get her the hell out of there. Later, when things aren't going so hot for the group, they start to question their decision, which is natural, but they did the only thing they could.
Where a lot of similar movies trade on the bad choices of its characters, this group uses their good judgment and limited resources to do the best they can to get out of there. Their problem is that the hunters are equipped with both close knowledge of the region and high-powered rifles. It puts the climbers at a distinct disadvantage and sets the stage for the chase to come. The violence is doled out methodically and varies between gunshots and big falls, sometimes both at once. It comes at an even pace, but Gilbey always keeps the tension high. About halfway through the story, a third group comes into the fray, the people paying the girl's ransom. He weaves them in very well, though, and keeps it from getting overly complicated. It adds just the right amount of intrigue coming into the finale.
Gilbey keeps the story simple and straightforward, allowing the environment do the heavy lifting on the action and the performances carry the drama. Even when they come off the mountain and into town for the final act, it rolls on swiftly with plenty of gunfire and a strange festival that happens to be going on at the same time. Changing the setting at the endgame suits the movie really well, shrinking the story just enough to allow keep everybody close together, impossible in the woods, and preventing their convergence from seeming like a complete coincidence.
A Lonely Place to Die is action-packed and works well, but much of that comes down to the performance of Melissa George, who I've come around to quite a bit over the years as a horror heroine. I don't know how much of her own climbing in the film, but she looks the part and, unequipped as she is to deal with the situation, she is no shrinking violet, fighting every step of the way. The other performances are less memorable, but not bad at all. Slickly produced and considerably more suspenseful than many of its ilk, A Lonely Place to Die is sure to satisfy fans of action, intrigue, and horror.
A Lonely Place to Die is a winner, and so is the Blu-ray from MPI and IFC Midnight, or at least in terms of the technical details. The 2.35:1/1080p image looks fantastic throughout, with nearly perfect clarity and superb detail in all of the lovely outdoor scenes. The colors are accurate, shadows have good delineation, and blacks are thick and deep. The interior scenes once they get into the city don't look quite as good, but that might simply be a matter of less incredible scenery and it never looks bad. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is strong, as well. It features good separation in the channels with solid dialog and ambient effects. The only extra is a trailer, which doesn't count.
A Lonely Place to Die isn't great, meaningful cinema, but if you're in the mood for high tension and intrigue with a touch of horror, you can do a whole lot worse than this. There's no way anybody is getting me up on one of those rocks, but I'll happily return to see them again in this movie.
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