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Fantastic Fest 2011 Review: A Lonely Place To Die

October 2, 2011
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A Lonely Place To Die (UK 2011)
Directed by Julian Gilbey
Written by Julian and Will Gilbey
Starring Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Sean Harris, Kate Magowan, Alec Newman, Eamonn Walker

Good news for film fans, here’s a festival film scheduled to hit a screen near you in early November.  Anytime you have set a thriller in the world of mountain climbing, there’s a certain added element of suspense. The sport is fraught with its own dangers and inherent risks, making it the perfect backdrop for a film about survival. Add a few villains into the mix, and you have a real nail biter on your hands. Face it; there is no way to quickly escape a murderous villain when you are forced to scale the sheer face of a cliff with minimal equipment, so the action is absolutely agonizing to watch.

A Lonely Place to Die follows a group of five friends who have convened in the Scottish Highlands for a mountain climbing adventure. Their vacation is curtailed when they make the startling discovery of a young Serbian girl buried in a cell underneath the ground.  Refusing to think about the consequences; they frantically work to extricate her from her dark tomb, and all hell breaks loose. Her captors are none too pleased that their prisoner has been freed, and begin hunting down the group of climbers and dispose of them one by one. The story becomes one of survival, with the group pitted against natural elements and cold-blooded killers.

Director Julian Gilbey gives us some truly breathtaking climbing scenes, and the cinematography is gorgeous. There are lots of wide, sweeping views of the mountains, which illustrate to the true isolation the protagonists face. The tension is not relegated to the climbing sequences, the group must face roaring rivers and heavily wooded areas as well, and they have a huge disadvantage to the captors who know the landscape inside and out.

There are several things that set this film apart from the standard thriller fare, namely you believe that every single person is in constant mortal danger, even the child. Most of the time the kid is off limits, but not here. Gilbey knocks off a few unexpected key players early on, so you never can predict what will happen. Most so-called thrillers are misnomers because you never feel that sense of peril. The characters are also richly developed, and behave in believable ways. The two women in the group (Melissa George and Kate Magowan) immediately feel maternal toward the girl, while the men are a little more dubious and unwilling to risk life and limb for her. The men are all about self-preservation, while the women become protectors. These characters are also resourceful and smart, not falling victim to the usual horror/thriller clichés.

George is the only well-known actor in the film (Turistas, Triangle, Alias), and she portrays the strong willed heroine Alison, who is as capable as they come. I’ve always loved George, and this is a great addition to her resume.  She has dyed her hair dark, and appears to be in top physical shape for the demanding role. The rest of the cast is quite good, but Sean Harris is particularly chilling as one of the bad guys.

Though I was initially disappointed that the film didn’t have more of a horror feel to it, I quickly got over that and grew to like the action aspects of it. It’s a solid film from the UK and well worth a watch.

Rating 3.5/5

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