Fantasia Fest 2011: 'A Lonely Place to Die' Review


Five young mountain climbers find that they have a lot more than the elevation to worry about when a pair of vicious killers mark them for extermination...

What's that? You've seen this movie before? Maybe it wasn't mountain climbing but hiking or camping or skinny-dipping, what have you. This premise is not only unoriginal, familiar, and virtually played out -- at least until a cool little movie comes along and injects a real shot of adrenalin into a potentially tiresome concept.

That's precisely what director Julian Gilbey (Rise of the Footsoldier) has done with the rock-solid mountaineering thriller A Lonely Place to Die, and yes, "rock-solid" was an intentional pun. (My apologies.) The set-up is this: a crew of climbers led by the always-cool Melissa George come across a truly bizarre discovery while halfway up a remote peak: a young girl, buried in a  coffin. Of course the gang decides to rescue the little girl and bring her down the mountain to safety -- but the guys who stuck the kid in the ground in the first place, well, they have other ideas.

Thus begins an intense and picturesque horror / thriller / chase flick that, get this, deals in logic, common sense, and (best of all) some rather dark surprises. Reminiscent (just here and there) of woodland thrillers like Shoot to Kill, Cliffhanger, The River Wild, The Most Dangerous Game, and Deliverance, A Lonely Place to Die sets up its bleak situation with an ample degree of confidence and efficiency: the "victim" characters are thinly-drawn but well-realized, the "hunters" are more than suitably malevolent, the setting is both beautiful and brutal, and to the flick's inestimable credit, it simply moves forward, virtually non-stop, on all cylinders. Even when characters are hurriedly trying to figure out their next move, there's a crackling sharpness to the flick that has us thinking "Go, run! Now! Keep climbing!"

So to answer my initial question: movies like this are why we, the hardcore horror fans, will always give yet another "forest stalker survival" movie a fair shake. When they're done well, thrillers like A Lonely Place to Die can feel like a 90-minute session of emotional aerobics. And I mean that as a big compliment.

A Lonely Place to Die has played at Actionfest, Fantasia Fest, and many others. Expect it soon at UK Frightfest and many more...