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  • Rev Horror

A Lonely Place to Die

Dir. Julian Gilbey (2011)

A group of mountain climbers find a kidnapped girl and are confronted by her kidnappers.

The second film in our Nature Week 2024 is another that deals with survival horror where the wild is not the only thing that must be survived. 2011's A Lonely Place to Die has developed a little bit of a cult following for fans of the genre, of which I consider myself a member, but I have thus far managed to avoid watching. That changes now, because I'm willing to do pretty much anything for you people. Well, that and I've wanted to check it out for a while anyway (shhh). Thankfully, A Lonely Place to Die is an excellent film with a ton of twists and turns, fluctuating between survival and backwoods horror along with true crime thriller throughout.

A group of friends go backpacking through the Scottish wilderness, taking along their climbing gear in an attempt to scale some of the hardest mountain faces in the country. During their travels, they come across a pipe sticking out of the ground that is revealed to be an air pipe for an underground room. The group digs out the box, in which they find a kidnapped little girl, and they take her with them in an attempt to rescue her from whoever took her. The trip quickly takes a dark turn, as her kidnappers will do anything to get her back and receive the ransom from her rich parents. Our mountain climbing friends must escape to a local village in the middle of a cultural celebration in order to survive the trip.

Survival horror, by it's very nature (pun very much intended), tends to be a slow burn type of film. It's a long setup, explaining why the people are where they are, what types of dangers they will face from the natural world, and what other dangers await them as they try to escape back into civilization. A Lonely Place to Die does a good job with this section of the film, lending heavily to the good performances from Melissa George and Ed Speelers, who stand out amongst the climbing group. When the film turns into a man-against-man thriller, it does lose its footing a little: the actual pursuit of the group by armed kidnappers is pretty wild but drags on a little longer than it perhaps should, and when the surviving members actually do make it out of the woods, the intrigue attempts to escalate into a who-can-you-trust situation. This works fairly well, but it does take away from the survival horror element that is leaned upon through the first three quarters of the film.

The concept behind the film is a good one, despite it's (admittedly barely-there) shortcomings. Finding a kidnapped child in the woods would be scary enough, but then realizing that you're being hunted by the people who took her makes an already dangerous situation far more so. It's more of a thriller than anything else, rarely dipping its toes fully into the horror genre. That said, it's a good thriller, so it's definitely one you want to watch regardless of your genre loyalties. It's a compelling plot with some fantastic action scenes, including some of the better and more jarring climbing accidents in film. It meanders a bit at times, though its never hard to follow, and it's a pretty wild ride from start to finish.

If you're someone whose idea of survival horror is more bear attacks or desertion in the middle of the ocean, you're not going to get anything like that in this film. Even the natural danger is connected to the presence of the human baddies, which makes it a bit of a departure from a lot of films like it. In fact, even the time that the "survival" part of this survival horror happens in the woods is designed more as a chase scene, with the villains just taking potshots at our protagonists as they run through the woods. Regardless, A Lonely Place to Die is an excellent thriller with a ton of violence, a much larger body count than expected, and a ton of fantastic action scenes that I certainly didn't think I'd get going into the film. It may not be strictly horror, at least not in the same way as most films like it, but it's still definitely worth your time.

Who this movie is for: Survival horror fans, Thriller devotees, Rock climbers

Bottom line: A Lonely Place to Die teases a little different than it delivers, but it's an excellent survival horror/action-thriller nonetheless. It's got a pretty large body count, especially for films in this category, and it's pretty non-stop action once things kick off. It's a compelling idea driven by some pretty decent acting, and it's got some of the best action sequences of any film like it. This one is streaming on Shudder right now, and while it doesn't completely fit snugly into the survival horror bucket, it's one you'll definitely want to watch.

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