Monday, 24 October 2011

A Lonely Place to Die (2011)

Don’t look down.

Image: Kaleidoscope Entertainment

Melissa George seems to have become, rather improbably for an Australian actress with a decent Hollywood career, the queen of impressive, low-budget British horror-thrillers. She starred in the inventively nasty WΔZ, the twisty Triangle, and now she stars in this Scottish-set film (interestingly, the first actually set in the UK). Would her good taste in British chillers extend to this latest movie?

George stars as Alison, one of a group of friends out mountain climbing in a remote part of the Scottish highlands. When they discover a small Eastern European girl buried alive, they dig her out and decide to get her to safety. But can they outrun whoever put her there?

Things get off to an excellent start with a vertiginous near-death experience for one of the climbers. Director Julian Gibley makes sure he’s got the audience where he wants them, showing us the isolation of the location and how a tiny mistake can mean life or death. From there we quickly move into more familiar territory. During the first twenty minutes there’s a clear Neil Marshall (The Descent) influence, which is no bad thing. We’re introduced to the group with some good dialogue and likeable performances. When they make their discovery, and characters start dying, the film moves at a breakneck pace. 

The first half of A Lonely Place to Die is gripping. It’s shot with a tremendous amount of skill and anyone with a fear of heights will be in for a tough time. But once the reasons behind the little girl’s situation are revealed with a sudden influx of characters, this tough, nifty survival thriller loses sight of what was working so well. While we don’t stop caring about Alison and the little girl, we do spend too much time away from them. As things build toward an admittedly well-handled but generic bullet-riddled finale, you’ll be missing that treacherous cliff-face.

However, the action is well-shot and the cast, including familiar faces Sean Harris (Red Riding), Eamonn Walker (Lord of War), and Karel Roden (Orphan), are all solid enough. George impresses once again as the resourceful, tough, but human heroine. For all the faults of the final third, there’s more than enough here to warrant a look. Film fans with vertigo, however, should probably skip it.

Verdict: A fantastic first half is let down by an implausible and over-the-top finale. 

3/5

JH

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