Overview: Five strangers hike the Appalachian Trail, their stories interweaving as they’re hunted by an unknown force. Uncork’d Entertainment; 2016; Not Rated; 85 minutes.
Extreme Beauty: Eric Blue’s Beacon Point opens in a vibrant forest, the kind of place that would be perfectly serene if not for the heavy-duty gun-toting men hunting something unseen. They’re terrified, and we’re meant to believe that there’s something evil hidden amongst the trees. Regardless of what might be hiding therein, the scenery in Beacon Point is breathtaking and that’s its saving grace when the stilted dialogue between its characters falls flat. Lush, green forest sprawling with moss is a consistent stunning backdrop to the growing sense of dread that follows the hikers. Shots of a picturesque swimming hole and jutting mountains make sure the trail remains tempting, even as the group discovers a mauled corpse and eventually loses their way, each on their own personal path.
Extreme Woman: Zoe (Rae Olivier) has quit her job as a real estate agent to hike the trail in memory of her father. Dad was a workaholic, and she desperately wants to avoid ending up like him, making sure she never “regrets not doing things.” Zoe is kind of kick-ass, even though she falls victim to an unnecessary romance and a slew of lazy, sexist comments throughout the hike (“It’s a chick!” exclaims Cheese, the resident teen of the trail upon meeting her). The hunting guide Drake (Jon Briddell) repeatedly calls her Barbie, and yes, later on she even gets called a “stupid bitch.” Still, her commitment to her goals does not waver and she fights back and makes herself heard. Settled in with Dan (Eric Goins), the rotund lollygagger, Cheese (RJ Shearer), and his forgettable brother Brian (Jason Burkey), Zoe is the high note of the group, and a natural leader who stands out until the end.
Extreme Dread: It’s revealed almost immediately that Drake is a convicted felon, and after an altercation gone wrong he decides to lead the group on their scheduled 10-day hike to avoid the consequences of his actions. The horror begins, of course, because he has taken them off the main trail. Drake shows an obvious irritation about tourists overrunning the beaten path and a strange distrust of technology. It’s a crutch, a government scam, a way to take away our rights and freedoms bit by bit. It’s clear that something is a little “off” here, but these inexperienced hikers seem cool with it. The further they hike, the more agitated and aggressive Drake becomes, especially when questioned by Zoe or the others of their whereabouts. This tension is coupled with stories of Cherokee legends, mysterious found objects, and intrusive, graphic nightmares. These are brief and sparsely sprinkled scenes that hold some great horror imagery. They’re particularly effective and a welcome change of pace even when the exposition does little to make sense of what we’re seeing. The actors really try to give it everything they’ve got all the way to the finish, and the passion of the filmmaker is evident, but the story twists in on itself ultimately becoming too muddied to embrace or see clearly.
Overall: Even with its brief moments of brightness, the stiff and forgettable characters paired with a total lack of chemistry make this one hard to handle. There are some really strong ideas in Beacon Point, but the film goes way beyond its means trying to bring them to life.
Featured Image: Uncork’d Entertainment