For some people the great outdoors doesn’t get any more frightening than the 1988 Dan Aykroyd/John Candy film, but genre fans know that nature is filled with all manner of deadly terrors. From animals out to feast on your flesh to hillbillies out for the same (after they rape you of course) to the raw danger inherent in rough weather and terrain, the outdoors will kill you if given half the chance.
The odds of survival grow even slimmer when you toss highly talented and motivated killers into the mix.
A Lonely Place to Die sends five friends on a hiking and climbing trip in the Scottish mountains, but when they find a young Eastern European girl buried alive in the woods their collective vacation takes a turn for the nightmarish. The good Samaritans try to get her back down the mountain to the safety of town, but they quickly find themselves targeted by the two professional killers responsible for her captivity.
What goes up must come down… some faster, harder, and deader than others.
The hikers are soon running, climbing, and falling for their lives (well, not so much the ones who fall), as they try in vain to save the girl and themselves. The action is set against a beautiful backdrop of raging rivers, cliffsides, and lush forests, and the suspense plays fast and loose with your breath. But the truth behind the girl’s abduction soon brings other characters into the mix who begin to take time away from the characters we’ve come to invest with our time and concern. It’s then that the thrilling cat and mouse game high in the alpine air crashes to Earth in a third act comprised of generic thrills, mediocrity, and flat out stupidity.
The action towards the end is clumsy and uninteresting, but the bigger crime here is the extended absence of the protagonists in order to focus attention elsewhere. The narrative moves but our loyalties don’t, so several minutes at a time focused on new characters we know little about and care even less for saps the suspense and energy from the film quickly.
Melissa George is the only recognizable face among the cast, and as she did in Triangle, 30 Days of Night and others, she shows herself to be more than capable and convincing in a role that demands acting chops and a physical presence. The remaining actors do a fine job, but there are no real standouts aside from a small side character played by Eamonn Walker who probably deserves his own action film.
Director/co-writer Julian Gilbey has crafted two thirds of a solid thriller that makes almost every second heavy with a dark anticipation, but everything that works so well in the film’s first two thirds is abandoned in the final thirty minutes to the film’s detriment. The third act shifts the focus from beautifully filmed suspense in a natural environment to an extended set piece elsewhere that feels false and far less exciting than everything that came before. The climb up may be killer, but the trip back down is just deadly dull.
The Upside: Several thrilling scenes and set pieces; Melissa George continues to be a convincing actress in physical roles
The Downside: Final third is an utter mess; occasional wonky geography and physics when it comes to bad guys with rifles