November 11, 2011
Julian Gilbey and Will Gilbey
Melissa George as Alison
Ed Speleers as Ed
Alec Newman as Rob
Eamonn Walker as Andy
This is not a horror movie. There are no scares, gore, or creepy themes. However, it is a decent suspense film with a couple ruthless killers stalking some 20-something do-gooders. All the action occurs either in the woods, on a rock face, or in a small town. There are several chase scenes and some unexpected plot shifts. The tension is palpable throughout and there is not a spot where I wanted to fast-forward. Ultimately, the story is a little unnerving, as it demonstrates the folly of helping others.
A Lonely Place to Die opens with a trio of young climbers attempting a multi-pitch route (a rock face as high as multiple lengths of 150 ft rope) on the jagged cliffs of northern Scotland. Rob and Alison stand on a ledge as Ed lead climbs above them. After reaching the top, Ed pulls up the rope, on which Rob is foolishly standing. He becomes tangled and both Alison and Rob fall – saved only by the anchor of protection they tied where they were standing. (Any experienced climber will balk at their foolishness.) Later, they reach the summit and join two other climbing buddies in a remote cabin for the evening. The next day, while hiking through the woods, one of them hears screaming and they make a terrifying discovery – a little girl buried in a small chamber with only an air hole to keep her alive.
The tension in the remainder of the film comes from two sources: The cat and mouse game between the climbers and the kidnappers and a story line that presents unexpected twists and turns. The acting is average to above average, depending on the individual, but since this is a story-driven film, its relevance is not substantial. The setting is different, but the film’s gems are the red herrings believably embedded within the story. The ultimate outcome is predictable, but how it comes about keeps the audience guessing.
After the initial scene of kidnappers chasing climbers, other players are introduced that have a stake in the situation and complicate the plotline. Their introduction not only helps keep the audience surprised, but the light in which they view the seemingly upright and humanitarian actions of the climbers becomes confused. The value of their personal sacrifice and the decisions that lead them into mortal danger are questioned by the audience.
Questioning their actions is easy, since with few exceptions characters are one-dimensional. The kidnappers are ruthless and stereotypical. The five climbers are mostly good and decent persons, who want to follow the right course of action, no matter what the cost. There is one who is generally unsympathetic, because he reacts mostly out of fear, until tragedy changes his heart and his actions become heroic. It is admittedly, difficult to create multidimensional characters while maintaining pulse-pounding tension, though not impossible. (A horror movie that succeeds in this endeavor is The Descent.)
Despite these character short-comings, the story remains compelling. Overall, for those looking for a solid suspense flick or who know a horror beginner, A Lonely Place to Die pulls lightly into the slasher sub-genre and is worth the rental.