In the middle of lunch during a weekend climbing exhibition, Ed (Ed Speelers) steps away from the rest of the group for a bathroom break. Before he can relieve himself, he hears something chilling: the hollow sound of someone trapped somewhere, calling for help. He flags his group over. Alison (Melissa George) hears it too. They rush over to the source of the sound: a rusty metal pipe sticking out of the ground, with a foreign child's voice echoing out of it.
A Lonely Place to Die has a very compelling premise. If this setup were given to five different writers, I can only imagine each writer would devise an entirely different story. Sadly, the one devised by director/co-writer Julian Gilbey and his co-writer brother Will is one of the weaker possible options, quickly ditching the elements that make this scenario intriguing in favor of more familiar thrills and chills.
Within minutes, the crew -- Alison, Ed, Rob (Alec Newman), Jenny (Kate Magowan), and Alex (Garry Sweeney) -- have found the edges of the box, pried it open, and found a little girl named Anna (Holly Boyd) inside. Anna does not speak English, and nobody can figure out what language she is speaking, but it's clear that she's hungry and in need of help. The group makes the decision to split up: experienced climbers Alison and Rob will head to the cliff face and climb down, cutting travel time to the nearest town in half, and send a copter back to pick up the rest of the group, taking the long way down to the village.
Without giving too much away, what happens next is a series of decreasingly interesting situations. Something appears to happen to Alison that would've been an entirely different (and, I think, much more interesting) movie, but it turns out to be a dream sequence. The very moment I was thinking it was a nice change of pace for the Gilbey brothers to keep their villains a briefly-glimpsed mystery, they decide it's time to introduce them (Sean Harris, Stephen McCole), as as well as a third interested (but uninteresting) party (Eamonn Walker, Paul Anderson, and Karl Roden). One major sequence of supposed tension involving a ruse is defused by the fact that, if the viewer can plainly see the ruse despite attempts to only hint at it with editing and framing, those who are meant to be fooled by it should see it too.
By the time Alison, Ed, Anna, and several of the other characters are stuck running around town during a parade in a gun-heavy chase-and-hide sequence, the chilling idea that sets the film up is a distant memory. George and Speelers are do their best, with Speelers pulling off a nice character transformation from asshole to hero, and there's no denying the film is somewhat engaging (at least up until the confusing ending, where characters act in ways that don't seem to make sense), but my hook for A Lonely Way to Die is the mystery of a pipe with a desperate voice at the other end, and the answers the film provides aren't nearly as compelling as the question.
A Lonely Place to Die gets pretty standard artwork doused in quotes that hints at the film's genre but doesn't really give the viewer any idea what to expect, although a comparison between the disc art and the front cover art is a nice little example of the difference between theatrical-style art and direct-to-video-style art. There is no insert inside the standard non-ECO Blu-Ray case.
The Video and Audio
IFC's 2.35:1 1080p MPEG-4 AVC presentation of the film has a number of issues stemming from the source material. Fine detail is very strong, but contrast is all over the map, causing the picture to be wildly inconsistent throughout the film. In some shots, black levels are spot-on, giving the image pleasing depth and dimension, but far too often, the blacks are a washed-out gray, flattening the image and causing some exceptionally saturated reds to jump off the screen inaccurately, more forcefully than anything else in the image (specific shades of a red jacket near the beginning and a fire ceremony near the end, specifically). Some of the more distant helicopter climbing shots were clearly filmed with different equipment, displaying a harsh, digital look, although that's probably no fault of the transfer. Finally, some shots during the finale with a certain character display vertical lines of grain across the image, which seems odd but may just be a quirk of the lighting conditions.
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is surprisingly effective from time to time. The first cries the viewer hears of Anna trapped in her box have an unusual effect laid on them that the audio delivers perfectly, and as the film goes on there are lots of impressive "rushing water" and "underwater" moments, as well as gunshots, a parade, and various other effective aural moments that are immersive and convincing. An LPCM 2.0 audio track, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and Spanish subtitles are also included.
None, other than an original theatrical trailer. Additional trailers for The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence, Undocumented, Spiderhole, and Sleeping Beauty also play before the main menu.
A Lonely Place to Die isn't bad, per se, just nothing most viewers haven't seen before, falling back on tired action-thriller theatrics barely more than halfway through. Hardcore action junkies might find it worthy of a rental, but others may be as frustrated as msyelf at the squandering of a good idea, one that could easily have propelled a more original thriller into the depths of chilling claustrophobia.
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