If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
After so many generic movies about terrorized innocents in
the woods, A LONELY PLACE TO DIE is like a breath of fresh mountain air—tainted
with the smell of blood. Out this week on DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Films and
MPI Media, it’s a twisty, nerve-rattling story of survival from British
director/co-writer Julian Gilbey, who spoke with Fango about its creation.
A LONELY PLACE TO DIE stars Melissa George as Alison, one of
a group of mountain climbers in the Scottish Highlands who make a discovery
that sends them on the run from relentless, deadly pursuers (see our review
Scripted by Gilbey and his brother Will, the movie is a mix of horror and
adventure—making it a first for the director (though he was an editor on Jake
West’s zombie opus DOGHOUSE), who previously helmed crime thrillers like 2007’s
acclaimed RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER. Here, he keeps you on the edge of your seat
not only through the plot’s many surprising turns, but also via numerous scenes
in which the cast really look like they’re scaling cliffs and hanging on for
dear life. It’s a remarkable film that’s a must-watch for genre fans.
FANGORIA: What is your background in movies?
JULIAN GILBEY: My background in movies is I’ve been making
them since I was 14, with VHS cameras. I made JAWS 4 with a wooden fin on
holiday in Portugal at that age. My father swam underneath and he was the
shark, and it was great fun. I’ve always been making films, but I’ve never done
a horror-thriller before.
FANG: Have you and your brother been collaborating on
projects for a long time now?
GILBEY: Yeah, absolutely. We work together, we edit
together, we write together. We get on very well, we are very open and honest
with each other, tell each other if that’s a crap idea or give each other a pat
on the back if stuff is working. I get on with him like a house on fire.
FANG: One of the great things about A LONELY PLACE TO DIE is
that it starts out like your typical movie with five friends lost in the woods,
and bad stuff happens to them, but then it keeps throwing in new twists. Did
you intentionally try to set it up to lead the audience into thinking it’s one
kind of film, and then it turns into something else?
GILBEY: Well, I don’t know that it does. It’s interesting
you ask that, but to me, the logical conclusion [to the early setup] is that
there’s a bigger story, and our climbers have accidentally stumbled into that.
So, quite honestly, it doesn’t feel like it sidesteps unnaturally; it does
naturally progress. It was always the intention to bring more characters in,
and to make the story bigger and more rounded as it goes on, where you discover
new bits and snippets as the story branches out and becomes a little bit
FANG: Well, there are many ways the film subverts
expectations; for example, when you see the hunters early on and it seems like
you’re giving away your villains, but then you throw a twist into it.
GILBEY: That’s the Alfred Hitchcock in there; he was always
the best with red herrings. But having said that, we couldn’t work out why our
bad guys would have high-powered rifles, so they needed to acquire these
weapons. And we thought, “How are they going to acquire them in a way where we
can have fun with the audience?” And we made sure that when we cast those two
guys, they almost looked meaner than our villains. I mean, we got Douglas
Russell, with his face just carved out of bronze and a jawline built of iron,
who almost makes Stephen McCole and Sean Harris look like little boys.
FANG: McCole and Harris are very effective as your villains;
did they come to audition, or did you know them beforehand?
GILBEY: Stephen came in early to read, and I found out he
was in RUSHMORE, which I love RUSHMORE. It was funny, because I hadn’t seen it
in years, so I asked him, “Who were you in RUSHMORE?” He said, “I was the
Scottish one,” and I was like, “Oh, right, there’s only one.” Actually, he
auditioned for the Mr. Mcrae part and the role of the police sergeant; I said,
“You can have either one, which would you prefer?” and he wanted Mr. Mcrae, and
was just perfect for it. He was a very good ally with Sean Harris—who I
initially just met for a chat. I had seen some of his other work and thought he
was a very strong actor, and he liked the script. One thing about Sean was, I
was expecting him to be into art-house and obscure films, and one of his
favorite movies is POINT BREAK. So I thought, “Great—that’s one of my favorite
films too; I’m going to like this guy.” He and Stephen had a lot of fun taking
what we wrote on the page and taking it further.
FANG: How about your heroine, Melissa George?
GILBEY: I love Melissa; I think she’s great. Looking at the
film now, I couldn’t visualize anyone else doing that role. What I love about
her is although she’s tough, she also has a wonderful vulnerability, and still
looks quite frail and delicate next to these raging, dangerous characters. And
she was willing to do the climbing stuff—as much of it as the insurance people
would allow, she wanted to do. She took the bull by the horns, and I’m very
proud of her. She’s also an amazing actress; she did not fluff a single line
once, and she did not even give a bad delivery once. You know, if I needed to
shoot it again, it was just to make sure or to change the angle or whatever,
but we never did more than three takes with Melissa. Never needed more than
two. She was a total pro.
FANG: Holly Boyd as Anna, the little girl at the center of
the story, is terrific too. How did you find her?
GILBEY: That’s so kind of you to say, because a lot of
people, with all these characters, forget to mention her. But a movie like this
stands or falls on its child performer, and if that actress is not good, it
takes away from everything. We had a massive casting process; we went to
Edinburgh, we went to Glasgow, we went to England, and eventually we found
Holly, who was just 10 years old the day after her audition. We got down to the
last three girls, and I had a clear idea of who I thought it was going to be,
and then Holly just blew the other two away. She was brilliant; I’m really proud of her.
One of the funny things was, there’s a scene where Melissa
has to lower her off a cliff, and I was like, “Holly, this might be a bit
scary.” And she was like, “No, not at all, we’ve done rock climbing at school,
I know all the rope work.” She was very enthusiastic about it, actually.
FANG: Were she, her parents or the insurers ever concerned
about her taking part in the film’s precarious situations?
GILBEY: Well, I have to say at that a certain point, we did
have a very small stuntwoman to do a lot of Holly’s stuff. And the old trick
there is to dub the stuntperson with a screaming actress—that helps. Holly was
most definitely not put in any positions that were too dangerous; when push
came to shove, the stuntpeople came in. The rest is editing and movie magic.
FANG: One of the other effective things about the film is
the way it keeps changing locations. Was that part of the thought process while
writing, to keep the locations varied to make things interesting?
GILBEY: Yeah, I suppose so. I mean, it’s based on the
geography of Scotland, really. You’re always looking for an interesting place
to stage your scenes, so that was my attitude, to naturally take them into
SPOILERS follow below the next pic…
FANG: What inspired the idea of having a pagan celebration
in the town when the characters eventually get there?
GILBEY: Well, that’s interesting… It was fun, because Robin
Hardy, the director of THE WICKER MAN, turned up at the [Fantasia] screening
and said he really enjoyed the movie, which was great. I was born on May 1,
I’ve seen the May Day celebrations down in Cornwall many a time, and actually,
when I was studying film in Edinburgh, there’s this crazy celebration they do
on the 30th of April, up on Carlton Hill, put on by the Beltane Fire Society.
It’s this naked, pagan fire festival, and it’s mad. I saw this thing in 1997,
and since then, I’ve wanted to put it in a movie. It was just a matter of where
and in what film, and this one presented me with the perfect opportunity to
create a really interesting environment to stage it for the finale.
FANG: It also allowed you to put some naked women in the
film, which I’m sure your investors were happy with.
GILBEY: Well, they’re not naked, are they? They’re painted
red. And so are the men. On a serious note, it wasn’t a cynical attempt to get
nudity in there. It’s this crazy pagan festival, and I wanted to stay true to
that. We also had some great costumes; it’s all about fertility and
regeneration, and I felt it would be an intriguing backdrop to set the drama
FANG: Are those the actual festival participants on screen?
GILBEY: We actually got a local group who staged these
incredible fire gags. And then Hayley Nebauer, the costume designer, got to
work on creating what she referred to as the white warrior women, the Green
Man, the May Queen, the handmaidens, this crazy goat demon, all these different
things. She came to me with some of these designs and said, “Julian, I hope you
don’t think I’ve gone over the top,” and I said, “I love these designs. Go
build them.” She had quite a healthy budget for that, and I love seeing them on
screen. It was a mixture of that group and some of our extras, and they worked
together to choreograph and set up a play fight, etc.
FANG: There’s been a bit of a renaissance for British horror
films and thrillers recently, with your film, THE DESCENT, BLACK DEATH…
GILBEY: I really enjoyed that. Such an underrated film.
Badly treated by the distributors; they just didn’t see that they had something
much better than they thought. That’s the story of independent film, isn’t it?
But we’ve had THE DESCENT, DOG SOLDIERS, yeah. There are a lot of really good
directors having a lot of fun, and giving audiences a lot of thrills.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment