Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Lonely Place to Die (2011): Review

A Lonely Place to Die is a 2011 British horror thriller film. Directed by Julian Gilbey (Rise of the Foot Soldier) and starring Melissa George (Triangle, The Amityville Horror) and Ed Speelers (Eragon). The movie was filmed completely on location in the Scottish highlands.

Alison (George), Ed (Speelers), Rob, Jenny and Alex are a group of enthusiastic rock climbers who have pilgrimaged to the most mountainous region of Scotland for an outdoor weekend. Once out on the highlands, the group make a shocking discovery and soon find themselves in the sights of a pair of vicious snipers intent on wiping out the entire group. After managing to escape the lawless mountains, the remaining members of the party make it to a nearby town to raise the alarm. However, the town has been designated as the meeting spot between their attackers and a third party who are seeking to conclude their "business", leaving the climbers stuck in the middle of a deadly firefight.

ALPTD is one of those great environmental movies in which the landscape is as big a character as any of the cast. Although the highland backdrop is only present for the first half of the film, it is a stunning location to shoot with and Gilbey makes fantastic use of it. In this respect it reminds me of Wes Craven's The Hills  Have Eyes (1977), full of pov shots from behind rocks or hovering over a precipice. Plot wise it actually reminded me of the much underrated Stallone film Cliffhanger (1993), in which innocent climbers also become embroiled in a highly illegal and dangerous situation, I would go so far as to say the opening scene of ALPTD is a nod to the memorable opening sequence of Cliffhanger. The unfortunate thing about ALPTD is that it abandons this brilliant setting half way through, and hence all the tension associated with the setting is also abandoned. Although the latter half of the film is still very good and the pay off is semi-satisfying, I was engrossed by the scenery of the first half and the move into a more urban setting caused my interest to dwindle slightly.

Something that also struck me instantly about the film, and is inseparable from the setting, is the brilliant score. The film opens and closes with a haunting traditional folk piece, set against the landscape in the case of the former. The rest of the score fuses typical thriller style sounds with an underlying bagpipe or penny whistle to add a Celtic flavour to the mix. Quite apart from the music there is also fantastic sound editing throughout; The whistling of the wind over the opening credits, the teeming sound of the woods and the deafening roar of a thrashing river in one key scene. Again this poses nature as an additional villain and creates the isolated effect alluded to in the title.

Stylistically ALWTD reminded me a lot of Ben Wheatley's recent masterpiece Kill List (2011) in that it mashed together lots of genres and elements in a very ambitious way. Like Kill List the film is a horror, a thriller, a crime film and has a smattering of black humour for good measure, making it a perfect companion piece. I liked ALPTD a lot and was thoroughly gripped for most of the film, but it is the film's ill-advised change of setting that eventually held it back.

4 Stars ****

What did you think of the film? Would you like to see more nature thrillers?


  1. This movie kind of blew me away. It's not often that genre conventions get so twisted around that I'm really surprised by a film, but watching this I was genuinely thrown several times. Honestly didn't know what to expect. Excellent movie. Also I'm scared of heights.

  2. Forgot to mention that I loved KILL LIST too. My fave film of last year in fact. If you dig this kind of survival-against-nature shocker, have you seen Adam Green's FROZEN and the recent THE GREY? Both good, but FROZEN in particular is excellent. Nice blog by the way!

  3. I haven't seen Frozen, but I always linger when I see it on Lovefilm, I know the basic premise, will have to check out some time. thanks for your feedback Aylmer :D