Update: Beacon Point will premiere in LA at Dances with Films on Friday, June 10th @ 11:30pm at the Chinese Theater. Get tickets here.
There has been a trend in recent years for American horror films to offer audiences either a cerebral horror experience or one steeped in gory visuals. But as a fan of the ways in which both modes of storytelling can offer a deeply personalized viewing experience, I’ve been waiting for a film to merge both approaches successfully. Beacon Point, director Eric Blue’s first foray into feature filmmaking, is that film.
We are first introduced to Zoe (Rae Olivier), who impulsively quits her job to embark on a group hike on the Appalachian Trail. She is joined in this adventure by a rag tag group of equally inexperienced hikers: Dan (Eric Goins), a Silicon Valley success story dealing with a recent divorce, along with Brian (Jason Burkey) and Cheese (RJ Shearer), two recently reunited brothers. As they are led off the beaten trail by their secretive tour guide Drake (Jon Briddell), a series of grisly discoveries sets the stage for a terrifying adventure that lingers with you long after the ending credits have rolled.
With lush and expansive cinematography that belies its independent film budget, Beacon Point is a fantastic addition to the ever-increasing catalog of eco-horror films. Blue’s decision to establish nature’s agency in the film’s opening moments via overhead shots depicting the vastness of the natural world at first hints at an overtly generic environment. There is a mundaneness to the way the camera tracks the landscape that suggests these woods are not all that different from any in which people would camp or hike. Beautifully constructed by the film’s Director of Photography Jim McKinney, these framing shots also work to delineate the woods from the present day world and create a delicious sense of tension that rises exponentially throughout the film.
Eco-horror, in particular those films taking place in the woods, has often been preoccupied with explicit environmental payback. Whether it be through mutation (the neurotoxins in The Happening) or evolution (the animals colluding in Long Weekend), nature is often portrayed as having been victimized by humans and striking out accordingly. Beacon Point plays with this notion of victimization in a wholly unique way.
To really drill down into those elements that make Beacon Point such an unusual viewing experience would require delving into spoilers. Suffice it to say, the film successfully reimagines an array of the genre’s more frustrating tropes and presents them in such a way that it’s hard to fathom why other films haven’t made similar observations about gender (especially masculinity) and nature.
The cast, too, is uniformly excellent. Eric Goins deserves particular praise for the way in which he creates humorous moments without ever overshadowing the dread of his character’s circumstance. In a genre that is somewhat wrongly maligned for its acting, Beacon Point makes the case for how strong actors can elevate an already excellent script and I can only hope that other casting directors will take note.
If I have a criticism, and it’s a slight one, it’s that I wanted more exploration of Cheese’s reaction to Zoe. The actors did such a successful job at creating subtext that this relationship, in particular, just left me wanting more—which may be entirely the point.
Watch the official trailer:
Official Website: http://www.bluelanternfilms.com/