A Lonely Place To Die is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover; at first glance, it could easily be mistaken for another backwoods survival horror – only set in the Scottish Highlands: a group of city slickers on a hiking expedition find a young girl trapped in a hole in the woods and must escape the wilderness to get her to safety as they’re pursued by the men who put her there. Sounds like a fairly standard cat-and-mouse horror fare, doesn’t it? Well I’m happy to report that it’s so much more. It starts off like our assumptions would assume, only to unfold into a more complex crime thriller involving various parties looking for the girl. It accelerates at cheetah pace, shifting gears like a Formula One car, to make for one hell of a suspenseful ride.
Fun story: When director Julien Gilbey set out to find funding for A Lonely Place To Die, he was given 3 million pounds to make anything, as long as it was set in the Scottish Highlands and showed lots of scenery. Basically, he could have handed in any old piece of crap as long as it had shots of mountains and forests. The scenery is certainly seductive; if this comprised solely of shots of Munro’s it’d still be amazing due to how stunning the North of Scotland is. However, thankfully there’s a story to it – a very original crime story. The scenery is used as an antagonist to give a sense of isolation and danger; mountain ridges and rapid rivers prove to be as dangerous a foe as military trained assailants with guns. It gives off the impression that sudden death could lurk behind every rock and tree, while making it a priority to avoid the majority of genre cliches.
For any survival thriller to be effective, the characters must have some substance, in my opinion. The reason Eden Lake surpasses mediocrity like Preservation et al, is because the heroes are people we can empathize with. A Lonely Place To Die’s characters aren’t perfect human beings; there are even moments where they discuss ditching the little girl to save their own keisters – like most normal people would. The people we’re supposed to root for are far from a group of saints: Ed (played by Ed Speleers) is a selfish insensitive twat who becomes a heavily flawed anti-hero. The lead villain, Mr. Kidd (Sean Harris, at his slimy best), is well fleshed out and not just you’re typical one dimensional gunner. We spend quite a bit of time with every party involved, which elevates it above and beyond a formulaic thriller. Melissa George is a likable enough lead with a good heart who shows bravery throughout. It’s a very physical role and she nails it.
The less you know about A Lonely Place To Die the better; it’s better if you go in knowing as little as possible and allow it to take you by surprise. It’s on Netflix US currently, so if you have it drop everything you’re doing and watch it. For me, it’s up there with Kill List as the best British film of the 21st century that isn’t part of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy. A smart crime story with the suspense and tension of the best horror films, you’d be foolish not to give it a whirl. 10/10.
Julian Gilbey & Will Gilbey
Melissa George, Sean Harris, Ed Speleers, Alec Newman