With just the sort of happy, cheerful title that one needs this time of year, A Lonely Place to Die promises so much and, for much of the film, delivers in a reasonably effective way. The opening scenes are incredibly reminiscent of The Descent – in fact, they could have been lifted straight from The Descent, so similarly do they slowly build the tension associated with being essentially stranded in the middle of nowhere. There’s the usual jocular bantering between the men and the women, the drinking, the gambling, but a strange sense that none of them really want to be there. For some reason the film assigns their climbing expedition an almost religious aspect, and never quite makes the audience privy to why they are there, where they have come from, or even who these people are. It’s obvious that with each subsequent character introduction, we are being set up for a fall, and a bloody fall at that.
Melissa George (recently famous for her star-turn in the exceptional Triangle) is her usual exhausted, tear-stained self as Alison, the emotional heart of the film. The other characters have names but they are so flimsily rendered that they might as well be made of tissue paper – there’s the sparring, flirty couple, the posh one and Alison all together in a hut for the night, to prepare for a good day’s hike. All’s going well until they stumble across the titular lonely place – a young girl held captive in a wooden box buried in the ground, with only a pipe for air, through which they can hear her exhausted and tortured cries for help. They rescue her from said box and make good their escape from the hills of nowhere but, as always, someone is watching them and plans to stop them.
Once the action leaves the hills, the film becomes a strangely plodding action thriller, with various Wicker Man elements thrown in for good measure. This doesn’t really add up to anything and the machinations of the plot are painfully clear to anybody watching the film – there must be a singular baddy who is literally chasing the girl, and he must be stopped for there to be any real pay-off. If only the film wasn’t so basic and took its time with its plot it would have been a half decent thriller. As it stands, it’s just an incredibly watered down non-horror version of The Descent meets an incredibly watered down version of The Wicker Man. The plot with the girl isn’t built up enough, and because of this the emotional climax falls completely flat. The ending lasts for about two scenes longer than it should and the plot tries to trick the audience into thinking that it’s cleverly taking them places they have never expected to be taken but actually it’s pretty straight-forward and, worst of all, dull.