Beacon Point, 2016.
Directed by Eric Blue.
Starring Rachel Marie Lewis, Jon Briddell, Eric Goins, Jason Burkey, and RJ Shearer.
To mourn the death of her father, a young woman decides to take a 10 day guided hike on the Appalachian Trail, but instead of catharsis she and fellow hikers find a terrifying ancient force intent on doing them harm.
Let’s just get this out of the way quickly: Beacon Point isn’t good, at least by traditional cinematic measures. The dialogue is laughably bad, the acting wavers between stiff and absurd, the special effects are 90s-television quality, and many scenes appear to have been lifted directly from the most recent Blair Witch movie.
Yet somehow Beacon Point is very watchable. In fact, at some points it is down right compelling. Part of this is because Beacon Point is so bad that it’s occasionally good. It’s hard not to get excited for the next strange conversation or idiotic character action. But this is more than just tasty junk food. Beneath Beacon Point’s lousy exterior lies a very creative central idea, an idea that director Eric Blue (who co-wrote with Traci Carroll) sees through to the very end, where it reaches a twisty, satisfying conclusion.
Beacon Point begins with a throwaway scene of terror, which shows two military types being hunted down by a mysterious woodland beastie. From there, the action shifts to the plucky Zoe (Rachel Marie Lewis), a real-estate agent who’s showing one last house before a long vacation and doing a pretty poor job of it. Lewis shines in these early comic moments and it is a shame that the film abandons any attempt at intentional humor after this early scene, as Lewis is far less suited to the action heroine duties she ends up with later on.
The focus quickly jumps from Zoe to trail guide Drake. Drake reports for work, only to be fired, as his boss has discovered that Drake has a criminal past that he failed to admit to on his application. Now this is a very real problem for many jobseekers today, and it would have been great to see this scenario handled with a bit of complexity and sensitivity. Instead, Drake reveals himself to be a one-note baddy, and the fight he picks with his boss ends with his boss being impaled by some wall-mounted deer horns.
Drake locks the office up to make his escape, but runs into nerdy hiker Dan (Eric Goins), who inexplicably convinces Drake to still lead their hike even though he’s just killed his boss (which Drake keeps to himself). Brothers Brian (Jason Burkey) and Cheese (RJ Shearer) soon join, followed by Zoe, and the hike begins.
They discover a dead body a mile into their hike. Drake quickly decides that a bear attack was behind it and advises his group to stay close to him. At this point, any semi-logical person would turn around and it seems likely that a National Park would close to guests in the case of a murderous animal. And this is where Beacon Point’s shortcomings show the most. In trying to build tension, Blue relies on horror clichés without spending any time building towards them and even less paying them off. Each ticks a box as the film motors along but provides little impact.
It’s when the hikers make camp that things finally get interesting. Something odd happens to Zoe in her sleep, and the scenario is treated with subtlety, unlike anything else in Beacon Point. Suddenly the hikers find themselves unable to trust each other or their surroundings.
Though this central mystery, which begins with ancient Native American ruins and expands in surprising directions from there, is great, it’s at such odds with the shakiness of the of the production that it almost feels accidental. Still, it adds desperately needed depth to Beacon Point, as the film’s unintentional humor isn’t enough to sustain its 85 minutes.
Beacon Point definitely has value. The film is packed with beautiful shots of the famous Appalachian Trail and the central mystery is clever and unique. And though the rest of the film isn’t good in the traditional sense, it’s never boring. While Beacon Point could have been much better than it is, it could also have been much worse, and it could be worth a look for those interested in a campy horror adventure.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★