It’s always exciting to see places that you’ve rarely (if ever) seen before in a film, and before the opening credits of A Lonely Place to Die are done rolling, the audience has already been given a gorgeous introduction to the Scottish highlands. And before the credits even start rolling, we’ve had an uncomfortable look at them upside down, from the perspective of someone hanging by a climbing rope. While the film’s setup is something we’ve seen before– a group of friends go hiking in a remote area and encounter something they’re not prepared for– once the action begins in earnest, A Lonely Place to Die is an unpredictable ride.
Experienced mountain climbers Alison (Melissa George) and Rob (Alec Newman) are preparing for a weekend hike in the highlands with their young friend Ed (Ed Speelers) and couple Andy (Eamonn Walker) and Jenny (Kate Magowan). After resting a night in a cabin, they set out on their climb, but during a break for a meal, Ed wanders off a bit and hears an odd sound echoing. The group is compelled to investigate, and are shocked to discover a plastic pipe acting as an air hole leading to a large wooden box buried in the ground, inside of which is a terrified young girl, Anna (Holly Boyd), who doesn’t speak English.
Once Jenny coaxes Anna out of the box, the group is faced with a problem: their location is remote, to say the least, with the closest village several miles away. Rob and Alison take off on a direct route to the village that requires a dangerous climb, while the others take Anna and start going the long way around. Unfortunately, the men who put Anna in the ground are not far away, and the friends soon find themselves in a race for their lives and to save Anna from her vicious kidnappers, while also facing a rather inhospitable terrain that presents its own inherent dangers.
Like the recent Israeli film Rabies, A Lonely Place to Die starts in a familiar place and goes in a very different direction from what viewers might expect. Director Julian Gilbey uses the beautiful locations to maximum effect, making them both inviting to look at and unmistakably dangerous. As the film progresses, more players are introduced into the action, including a ransom dispatch team led by Darko (Karel Roden), an employee of Anna’s father. Gilbey deftly moves between the friends trying to save Anna, the kidnappers, and the ransom team, leading the three main strands to tie together in a breathless final act.
Melissa George is becoming something of a staple of solid genre cinema from the UK after this and Christopher Smith’s brilliant Triangle. She delivers another strong performance in a demanding role here, backed by an able supporting cast. Especially notable is Ed Speelers, who gives what could have been a one-dimensional frat-boy character a nice depth as the film progresses. A Lonely Place to Die is a unique take on the survival action/adventure film, with interesting characters and more than its share of effective white-knuckle suspense.
MPI Home Video/IFC Midnight released A Lonely Place to Die on DVD and Blu-ray on 20 March 2012. The disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.