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First Look Review - BEACON POINT

Hikers awaken an ancient evil on the Appalachian trail.





Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Eric Blue

Starring: Rae Olivier, Jon Briddell, Eric Goins, Jason Burkey, RJ Shearer



Despite the sumptuous look of the trek, the journey Beacon Point offers may not lead up to much, and, ultimately, you too could find yourself wishing you’d turned back at the first warning.


Question: You, along with several disparate strangers, are on a hiking trip across the Appalachian Trail. Just as the trek is commencing, your party happens upon a corpse, freshly murdered to death and lying ignobly in the woods with its eyes violently burnt out. What’s next? Would you freak out a bit and panic, before heading directly back to the Ranger’s Centre in order to alert the police, perhaps convalescing with a hot chocolate and a tartan blanket, abandoning the hike as much out of respect for the deceased as the destabilising trauma of a recent brush with mortality; maybe reconsidering your trek for the future; after all, the Appalachian Trail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, is it? Or would you shrug a bit, look sad for a moment or two, maybe mutter something about calling the cops, but then just carry on marching through the forest regardless?


If your answer leaned closer to the latter scenario, then you’d fit right in with the amateur backpackers of Beacon Point. But in order to truly be a part of this gang, your personality and motivation would also have to conform to a stereotypical template; there’s our heroine Zoe (Rae Olivier - very good), a plucky go-getter who’s quit her job for a taste of adventure; brooding Drake (Jon Briddell - a mini Michael Douglas), the ex-con tour guide who’s harbouring a deadly secret; Dan (Eric Goins), a chubby nerd whose wife has left him and who ain’t built for mountaineering; and, to make up the team, a couple of brothers called Cheese and Brian (RJ Shearer and Jason Burkey) - Cheese has younger sibling anxiety and Brian seems to exist simply so that Zoe can fulfil an ersatz heteronormative relationship amid the myriad of dead bodies (animals and people) which the gang discover along their merry way through the woods.


Problem is, the bunch have unknowingly awoken an ancient evil, which is part sci-fi, mostly horror in nature. This force manifests in the aforementioned deaths, but also in the (startlingly effective) hallucinations which Zoe and Drake sporadically experience. These trippy sequences offer the film’s most impressive moments, but the forest setting, and the sweeping aerial shots that director Eric Blue uses in order to show it off, also give the film an idiosyncratic look and sheen: painting the frame with extra-terrestrial jades and infinite emeralds which could harbour any manner of strangeness.

In the spirit of the pervasive lost-on-a-hike subgenre, there is also a sense that this bunch have more going on than at first seems; as if by embarking on the trek, they’re attempting flight from the worries and concerns of their own lives (alright, there is a reason offered as to why they don’t retreat upon the first warning sign - Drake, who is just recently out of the clink, has only gone and accidentally killed the boss of the outdoor pursuits centre, and thus convinces the newbies to keep going lest the authorities catch up with him - !).


There is a certain element of care in writer Traci Carroll’s plot which designs to flesh out character and convince us to the situation, but the issue with Beacon Point is that the cat and mouse tension of, say, A Lonely Way to Die is not quite apparent. These guys never seem stressed, either by the slog of the journey or the spooky shenanigans afoot. Even in the film’s final act, with most of her party M -possibly K- IA, Zoe is more concerned with scattering her dad’s ashes than tipping off other campers about the eye burning evil she’s just witnessed first-hand. In lieu of Zoe’s cavalier duty of care for fellow travellers, I offer you this caution: despite the sumptuous look of the trek, the journey Beacon Point offers may not lead up to much, and, ultimately, you too could find yourself wishing you’d turned back at the first warning.

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