I had high hopes for A Lonely Place to Die. I don't know why. Perhaps I'll die?
In all likelihood it was the spectre of several other, far better films that did it. Almost every review I'd read of A Lonely Place to Die made reference to The Wicker Man, that bastion of creepy Scottish cinema - though it was made by an Englishman, funnily enough - and the opening moments reminded me a great deal of Scotch director Kevin Macdonald's majestic Touching the Void.
Fitting, then, that this is another film involving Scotland. Sadly it's a bad one; ambitious, but ultimately utter rubbish.
For a few moments at the very outset - before the credits have even rolled - A Lonely Place to Die seems like it might be worth the film it was shot on. Melissa George out of 30 Days of Night, which I didn't actually despise, and a couple of her mates - never mind their names - are rock-climbing up a sheer cliff somewhere in the nightmarish highlands of my great nation. They're getting Away From It All... including any real hope of help, should things go poorly.
Then, as if on cue, there's a near miss.
All the major players come away from it unscathed, but even so, it's quite thrilling. I'll give the film this: for nearly an entire minute, it does make you think... that halfway up a windswept mountain in the middle of nowhere would indeed be a dodgy place to bite the proverbial bullet.
It's hardly a claim to fame, nor indeed is it a reason to watch this nonsense, but I'm sorry to say A Lonely Place to Die doesn't get any better. In fact, immediately after the titles, things take a turn for the worse: our characters reveal themselves to be useless city-mouse idiots, to a one, and incredibly unpleasant people to boot.
Thankfully someone starts knocking them off in quick succession after they come across a Serbian girl buried in a chipboard box in the midst of the wilderness the next day, whilst eating Mackerel and egg sandwiches. They dig her up like good tourists and formulate a daring plan of action. Melissa George and one of her associates will throw themselves head-first off the nearest rocky outcropping, the better to raise the alarm a little quicker, meanwhile all the other folks will run about like ninnies until someone shoots them too.
I mean... really. Mackerel and egg sandwiches!
Melissa George is singularly dreadful in the lead role - mawkish, moody, and thoroughly unconvincing as someone with the slightest clue what they're doing - but she's still amongst the best of a bad, bad lot. A couple of supporting players manage to come out of A Lonely Place to Die largely unscathed: The Borgias' Sean Harris makes for a suitably cold-blooded killer, and Eamonn Walker from Oz is decent as mercenary muscle on the other end of the spectrum, but unless there was a huge wad of cash on the table, and I can't see how that could have been the case, I don't even want to know what drove them to this new low.
That's just a taste of all that A Lonely Place to Die has to offer. On the bright side, I suppose there are some bleakly beautiful establishing shots of Scotland... director and co-writer Julian Gilbey stages a few reasonably interesting scenes... and there's certainly some small promise in the premise. But it's every inch of it squandered by bad acting, an obscenely obvious script, and in general an overwhelming sense that no-one, whether behind the camera or before it, has a notion as to what they - or this film - is about.
One other thing: there are far too many characters in service of what is essentially a story that's been told a hundred times a hundred times better before. Think Hostel in Scotland meets Dog Soldiers without the dogs, or better yet: don't bother. To be fair, by the point at which this particularly pitiful attempt to make a uniformly miserable movie interesting had become altogether unwieldy, I could have cared less; I just wanted A Lonely Place to Die to be over.
Eventually, it was. So it could have been worse!