The fear of getting lost in the woods is pretty nerve-racking, so it’s no surprise that filmmakers have been capitalizing on it for generations. In Beacon Point, the debut feature from director Eric Blue, a group of hikers get more than they bargained for when they head off on the Appalachian Trail for a ten day excursion. You’ve seen this setup before. You’ve probably seen it done better. You’ve probably seen it done worse.
Initially there’s some good groundwork laid with the character introductions, like a close-up on the main character’s stiletto heels as she teeters back and forth on her way to her friend’s car–-a huge hiking backpack shifting her weight. Combined with her modern (perhaps even pampered) look it emphasizes her possible unpreparedness for the sure-to-be dangerous journey ahead. Similarly, there’s a bizarre and funny reason why the oddball pseudo-villain Drake winds up leading the doomed hike.
While it wouldn’t be unfair to posit that the slick digital cinematography look of the film in some way detracts from the grit or realism that would have heightened its power, my main criticism is the same as with The Descent. The film sets up a natural scenario terrifying enough that the introduction of supernatural elements proves unnecessary. The entrance of more fantastical horror tropes distracts from the inherently powerful effect that picturing oneself lost in the woods at night–or stuck in a claustrophobic cave, for that matter–would have upon an audience.
Viewers may be put on edge by early scenes in Beacon Point, where the prospect of the characters becoming trapped in the ominous and vast Appalachian forest plays upon our inborn fear of the wilderness. But the “twist” around the halfway point shatters that sense of tension. I think that it inadvertently has the opposite effect to what the filmmakers intended. While I assume this was meant to deepen the film by tying the themes together with an appealing supernatural element, instead it shatters the realism that Beacon Point might have otherwise captured, effectively distancing the audience from the horror shown onscreen.
Unfortunately, Beacon Point succumbs to the same pitfalls we’ve seen before. While the shift isn’t as jarring as in The Descent, Blue’s film can’t boast nearly as nail-biting a lead-up. Ironically enough, while the hikers of the film venture off into uncharted territory, the picture itself seems content not to veer too far away from well-walked paths and familiar ground.
Director(s): Eric Blue
Writer(s): Eric Blue, Traci Carroll
Stars: Rae Olivier, Jon Briddell, Eric Goins, Jason Burkey, RJ Shearer
Release: June 10, 2016
Studio / Production Co: Blue Lantern Films
Length: 85 mins
Sub-Genre: Wilderness Mayhem, Supernatural Thriller