Monday, September 15, 2014

The Great Outdoors

A day after I watched A Lonely Place to Die, I took part in one of those obstacle-filled 5K runs where savvy Groupon buyers get to climb (or walk around to avoid) temporary walls and crawl through mud in the name of emerging victorious with a novelty water bottle. As I reached such 'fun' stops as the traverse rope, monkey bars,  and balance beam, I came upon a sad realization: 

I would never make it out alive in a horror movie.

Particularly a survivalist one like A Lonely Place To Die.

Quick Plot: Allison (genre stalwart/not Radha Mitchell Melissa George) and four adventurous pals are scaling a few mountains in scenic Scotland. As they munch on controversially delicious mackerel and egg sandwiches, the group discovers that a young, possibly Croatian girl named Anna has been mysteriously abandoned underground in what seems like a living tomb.

With a language barrier and impossible cell phone reception, Allison and head climber Rob decide to scale a few big rocks to get help. Naturally, things go awry when Rob's rope is cut and Allison discovers the group is being hunted by two not-so-sharp shooters trying hard to reclaim Anna. What follows is a fairly tense cats-and-mice chase through some extremely effective wilderness, eventually diluted quite a bit by a third group of kidnapper retrievers.

A Lonely Place To Die is directed by Julian Gilbey, a man who clearly has a deep and symbiotic relationship with the outdoors and translates it well onto film. When his characters are wandering through the sprawling mountainside, this is a great thing. The batch of five friends (one married couple, plus Allison and two other men whose relationship to her isn't explicitly explained) manages to be compelling without too much exposition or theatrics. The couple mentions their daughter in passing, adding some weight to what might be their fate. Ed, Allison's friend (question mark, since everyone hates him), has an effective transition from spoiled jerk to dude you want next to you under pressure. As Allison, Melissa George doesn't necessarily get to display a deep and complicated back story, but we don't need it. What we're seeing in A Lonely Place to Die is five characters fighting for their lives in confusion. We don't need to know their history to care, so long as the material is done right.

For most of its running time, it is. Where Gilbey falters a little is in the explanation of not only his villains, but of yet another group of badass mercenaries tailing them. The overall script and pacing are by no means bad, but it just feels as the grandeur of wilderness horror can't be maintained once we see cars and pistols. Gilbey is smart to set his more 'societal' act against a pagan street celebration of sorts, but it still: to go from Cliffhanger-esque scenes of mountainous tension to bar stakeouts is a letdown.

High Points
Filmed on location in the Scottish Highlands, enough can't be said about the beauty and potential terror in A Lonely Place To Die's setting. Between sprawling forests, rocky rivers and huge mountains, cinematographer Ali Asad captures the wilderness in all its glory

Low Points
Unfortunately, the action eventually moves to a far less lonely place to die

Lessons Learned
Whiskey + gin = ginsky, and well, it's not good

When a crazed woman who's obviously being chased pounds her way into your home, it's probably a good idea to close the door after her

Those who don't surf, climb

I was slightly disappointed by the somewhat anticlimactic finale of A Lonely Place to Die, but the film is still better than your average Instant Watch. It's well-made, beautifully shot, and decently acted. Your life won't see any significant changes after it's over, but for 100 minutes of your day, it ain't bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment