Beacon Point Movie Review
Written by Jeff Tolbert
Released by BlueLantern Films
Directed by Eric Blue
Written by Eric Blue and Traci Carroll
2016, 85 minutes, Not Rated
Released theatrically on June 10th, 2016
Rae Olivier (as Rachel Marie Lewis) as Zoe
John Briddell as Drake
Eric Goins as Dan
Jason Burkey as Brian
RJ Shearer as Cheese
Beacon Point opens with a pair of hunters getting slaughtered by an unseen but clearly monstrous assailant. It quickly transitions to a woman named Zoe as she tries to sell her house, only she deliberately emphasizes the bad points because she doesn’t want anyone to actually buy it (for reasons which are never fully explained). We learn that Zoe has just quit her job and has (had?) a strained relationship with her father, because now is the time for exposition! She’s now decided to go on a long hike to clear her mind and let the dust settle on her for-sale/not-for-sale house and recently-quit job, because she apparently didn’t get the memo about this being a horror film and not a zany romantic comedy.
Then we jump to a man named Drake, a guide working for a tour company somewhere on the Appalachian Trail, who shows up for work to learn that he’s been fired. Turns out Drake has a criminal record and his boss isn’t happy about it. As happens at such times, emotions flare, people get in people’s faces, there’s some shoving, and the boss takes a tumble from which he doesn’t get up. Drake has now committed another crime, and as he begins to panic, the day’s scheduled tour group starts to arrive. Apparently seeing an alibi, albeit a shoddy one, Drake decides to lead the group on their ten-day hike.
The small group includes Brian, a generic twenty-something, his brother Cheese (apparently so called due to a childhood refusal to eat anything but Velveeta—which is not, I hasten to point out, real cheese or even fit for human consumption), and Dan, a middle-aged Silicon Valley techie. Last to arrive, of course, is Zoe, our protagonist. After some initial discomfiture (which should have been a red flag to literally everyone in the universe), Drake adopts the machismo Hollywood has taught us to expect from outdoorsy leader-types, and they’re off.
Most of Beacon Point is walking and talking in the woods, and strangely enough this is the part that I like most. The characters may not be that interesting in and of themselves, but the actors have good chemistry and there’s some amusing dialogue. Eric Goins as Dan is a complete stereotype, the goofy, self-deprecating nerd we’ve seen many times before, but he gives the role an energy and humor that makes the character entertaining. John Briddell is weird and twitchy as Drake, which makes sense, and the character is by far the most interesting of the bunch. Aside from some uninspired computer-generated visual effects and entirely unoriginal spooky whisperings, the cinematic techniques on display are pretty good, and there are some spectacular views of Appalachia (presumably). The film feels fairly polished overall, with good production values and a generally effective narrative style.
Before long, the required scary things start happening, at first precariously couched in supposed Native American legend. The hikers discover a Native American grave marker, according to Drake, which of course the hapless Dan unwisely disturbs. Within he finds a pebble with strange markings on it, which he of course keeps—good decisions make short films—and that night Zoe is troubled by spooky happenings, an encounter with a vaguely familiar skinny almond-eyed monster, and vivid dreams hinting at abduction, captivity and torture (and therefore at the reality of the whole situation).
Unfortunately the “horror” elements here, such as they are, are the film’s weakest point. It’s impossible to figure out how the movie wants us to feel about the strange things that start happening. At first we’re primed to expect a creature feature, but later the beast(s) that killed the hunters seem(s) mostly to vanish (aside from Zoe’s vision), and instead the hikers are beset with strange visions and headaches. Eventually some eye-ripping-out happens too, but at this stage it seems to have transitioned from a creature stalky/killy movie to an abduction one, and it simply isn’t clear why the stakes have changed—unless the answer is Zoe’s presence, which makes sense given her past, but isn’t fleshed out enough to connect the disparate pieces of the narrative. (It’s impossible to go into more detail without spoiling the film, but suffice to say that Zoe has a childhood connection with the weird happenings in the woods.) If these elements were strung together in a more convincing way, if the narrative was tighter, it might work as horror; as it is, it feels like a script rewrite that left a few loose threads.
The film’s biggest misstep is making Zoe the main character when it should have been Drake. In fact every other member of the group is more interesting than Zoe, whose motivations for the hike are unnecessarily concealed at the outset and whose backstory, revealed partly through dialogue and partly through flashbacks (because that’s the only way horror stories can be told, apparently), is simply not compelling. Drake’s story, the reasons for his manslaughter conviction and his attempts to piece his life back together, would have been far more interesting than the horror-ish things that go on in the film’s present.
Beacon Point, in the end, is another missed opportunity. A strong start and above-par acting can’t save it from mediocrity, with a tacked-on supernatural/monster conceit that actually detracts from the far more compelling human stories it teases.
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