Beacon Point — Review

Beacon Point.PNG

Rachel Marie Lewis (l) and Jon Briddell (r) in a scene from Eric Blue’s Beacon Point.

25Star

“The film benefits from enough madcap energy that it’s always interesting, even if it seems a good deal less polished than [director Eric] Blue and company appear to believe it is.

by Ken Bakely

Thinking about Eric Blue’s Beacon Point returns conflicting results. On one hand, the film’s 83 minute runtime is brisk enough that it moves with admirable speed, a breezy piece of entertainment. On the other hand, the movie spends most of that hour-and-a-half moving slowly from standard horror fare to bizarre, conspiratorial science-fiction, and then backs off immediately upon reaching its own imposed pinnacle. It leaves the production feeling frustratingly unfinished – at best, simply poor plotting, at worst, a lazy setup for a hypothetical sequel. Nevertheless, the film benefits from enough madcap energy that it’s always interesting, even if it seems a good deal less polished than Blue and company appear to believe it is.

Beacon Point is set around a fateful camping excursion in the Appalachian Mountains. Drake Jacobs (Jon Briddell), a shady, high-strung ranger with a shady past and a handful of dark secrets, is scheduled to lead a small group for a ten day trip. The participants consist of real estate agent Zoe (Rachel Marie Lewis), desk dweller Dan (Eric Goins), and brothers Brian (Jason Burkey) and Sam (RJ Shearer), although he prefers to go by his childhood nickname (“Cheese”).  Blue and co-writer Traci Carroll choose to examine the proceedings largely through Zoe’s eyes, and establish that one of her incentives to participate in this hike is to avoid the workaholic fate of her late father. The brochures tell her that the trail they will follow will lead her to the perfect spot to scatter his ashes. However, it soon becomes clear to her and the rest that Drake is less than interested in following the beaten path – in fact, it doesn’t seem like he’s following any path at all. As days go by, the assertive leader he tries to position himself as gives way to a paranoid, twitchy, and violent eccentric, and as a series of strange occurrences begin to take place, it’s apparent that something very dangerous is beginning to take shape.

I won’t spoil Beacon Point’s ending, and to be honest with you, I’m not entirely sure what I would say about it anyway, as provocative as it is. The movie ends in such an abrupt way that it’s thoroughly disarming, leaving a final impression drastically more different (and underdeveloped) than everything that came before. The relentless pace of the film, an otherwise positive asset, begins to work against the project’s own best interests throughout the second and third acts, rushing through otherwise vital plot points and sequences, desperate to keep things under an hour and a half. Blue and Carroll have created a world with a real draw to it, but the problem is that they don’t allow us to explore it with the characters.  The film operates on such an ambitious scale for what we do see, however, that it’s hard to overly dislike the final results, regardless of how incongruently things are (almost) wrapped up.

The cast is fine. Briddell happily chews the scenery away as a manic antagonist, and Lewis pulls off a lot of good nonverbal communication. Cinematographer Jim McKinney turns in a sturdy, reliable visual slate, with a keen eye for natural lighting, important for a picture which takes place nearly entirely outdoors. Sharp close-ups are used sparingly, avoiding genre clichés of blitheringly obvious character framing or cheesy jump-scare rug pulls. Scott Salamon cuts the movie to a reliably fast-yet-coherent rhythm. For a production whose profile is as relatively low as this one, technical credits are largely on point. The drawback is in the writing, simply too inexplicable to hold its own, begging for continuation on the presumption that the audience would follow it there. Nevertheless, all things considered, Beacon Point is a fairly enjoyable thriller, one which at least has the acumen to build tension and suspicion and release it in a satisfying, capable way. Structurally it is a bit of a mess, but there’s something compelling in its unrepentant nature that keeps you with it as it chugs along.

 

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