Julian Gilbey gives us A LONELY PLACE TO DIE
While the threat of damp socks is enough to warn the wise away from the dangers of hiking and climbing, some adventurers need a sterner warning. A Lonely Place to Die embeds just such a caution in its narrative of an adventure-climbing trip gone awry in the Scottish Highlands. The five mountaineers who begin the expedition together are seeking a sporty break from their banal lives, but the horror that awaits them when they heed a call for a help in the apparently empty forest can’t be banished by energy drinks or high-tech fabrics.
In the opening scenes of the film, which has a structure loosely reminiscent of Jack Ketchum’s great horror novel Off-Season, the five characters are quickly established as hailing from different registers of life, and possessing different types of courage. Efficient, cool-headed Rob is the best climber in the bunch, a natural leader who can dictate a path of action without being overly bullish. Ed is the cocky fast-talker, whose natural streak of cowardice is quickly exposed when he makes a wrong step in the film’s first action sequence, the first of many gorgeously shot climbing sequences. Alex is the aggro male of the crew, but his excesses are kept well in check by his wife, the even-tempered and protective Jenny. Quickly attracting the attention of the audience and her fellow climbers as the standout character of the bunch is Alison, played with conviction by Melissa George.
North American viewers who missed Melissa George in mainstream horror misfires 30 Days of Night and Turistas may remember seeing her while running away from a television broadcasting Grey’s Anatomy. Her recent, soapy stint on that program belies her muscularity as both an athletic performer and an actress. In A Lonely Place to Die, she makes a grab for Sigourney Weaver’s Aliens crown, embodying the entirely feminine, entirely ass-kicking and un-sexualized heroine, the simultaneously terrified and fearless protector of the film’s little-girl-in-distress.
It’s loudmouth Ed who first hears that little girl’s cries, in a rare moment when he isn’t running off at the mouth. The echoing, foreign tones come through the trees, leading the climbers to a breathing pipe embedded in the forest floor. A few seconds and a few shovel-loads later, the gang of five has unearthed a Croatian pre-teen and the beginning of a very unpleasant twist in their adventure weekend.
A Lonely Place to Die is at its best during the inventive and chest-tightening nature chase sequences, which occupy the greater part of the first two acts of the film. Director Julian Gilbey and cinematographer Ali Asad eschew excessive CG, instead relying on courageous actors, stunt crew, and creative shooting to make the plunges through the air, water, and trees believable, and the violence visceral. The two-man criminal team responsible for the stashing of the terrified Croatian girl soon prove that child kidnapping is one of the more charming things that they are capable of, as they stalk the dwindling group of adventurers through the forest and the equally dangerous stone-and-cement jungle of civilization that lies beyond the trees.
Driven by Melissa George’s arresting lead performance and the hard-nosed approach of director Gilbey [who must have been keeping a close eye on the successes of fellow Brit Neil Marshall—The Descent is clearly a touchstone for this film], A Lonely Place to Die is welcome fodder for those who take their action lean, ruthless, and grown-up.
A LONELY PLACE TO DIE has its Canadian premiere on July 17th at 7:00pm in the hall Theatre with co-Writer/Director Julian Gilbey in person, and screens again on July 22 at 3:10pm in the Salle JA DeSeve. More details on the film page HERE.