May 8, 2017 Beacon Point (Movie Review)
The land along the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and North Carolina might have once belonged to the Cherokee, but none of the old legends speak of Beacon Point, a place that the Trail Masters whisper of but few have ever witnessed. Now is your chance to be one of the chosen few to discover Beacon Point, which arrived on VOD on May 2, 2017 via Uncork’d Entertainment. Los Angelino fans will have a special opportunity to catch the film screening at the historic Chinese Theatre on June 10th, as a part of the Dances With Films Film Festival.
Beacon Point is the tale of five hikers who take to the famed Appalachian Trail – which runs for approximately 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia – for a ten-day adventure. Each individual hiker is a story unto themselves: from the former Silicon Valley geek Dan (Eric Goins: Ride Along I & II 2014/2016, Dirty Grandpa 2016) to the sole female participant Zoe (Rae Olivier: Glee TV series, Transatlantic Coffee 2012). The brothers Brian (Jason Burkey: The Walking Dead series, Being Mary Jane series) and Sam (RJ Shearer: Paper Towns 2015, The DUFF 2015) are new to one another, the product of a father who led two very distinct, secret lives. Trail Master Drake Jacobs (Jon Briddell: Secrets & Lies series, The Arbalest 2016), viewers quickly learn, is a convicted felon and about to be booted from his job with Trail Tours. Clearly, he is a wild card!
Almost as soon as the quintet take to the trail, they are off it; headed into the wilds at the suggestion of Drake, who is looking to evade those pesky authorities and a snafu he left behind at the office. Of course, he is not the only one who has turned to the Trail for escape: Zoe has quit her job to live life to the fullest; Dan is recovering from a divorce; while Brian and Sam (who is affectionately referred to as “Cheese”) are looking to bond, having newly discovered their brotherhood. Drake is the clear leader, demanding that the group have their boots and rain gear packed; noting that he aims to cover 10 miles per day; and – with a noted glance in the husky Dan’s direction – that falling behind the group on the trail is dangerous. (Poor Dan will quickly become the whipping boy!)
Over that proverbial late night campfire, Drake informs the group that these mountains were all once Cherokee lands and trespassers would be killed on sight. The Nunnahee – or Immortals – inhabited the lands, protecting the Cherokee and serving as their spirit guides. As legend would have it – because there’s always a legend, right? – when the Cherokee were driven from the land, the Nunnahee left too and created a great void. Without their protection, the mountains fell to the Shadow People who came to haunt the land. The group dismiss the story as the hocus pocus that it is and head to bed or, for a few, wander into the woods to spark up that ole Appalachian doobie.
The story progresses with a natural pace as the quartet of junior adventurers and their guide work their way through the wilderness, somewhere, presumably, not too far from the “tourist pit” of the Appalachian Trail. When the group discover a gigantic meadow – known as “Strawberry Fields” (yes, like the Beatles’ song) to the Cherokee – the tension begins to mount. Dan discovers a set of native grave-markers and curiously procures a tiny item that appears to be some kind of scarab, complete with obscure markings. “It’s bad luck to disturb a spirit house!” Drake forewarns, though the former Geology student cannot help but find intrigue in the curious little scarab shell.
That night, gathered around the campfire, Zoe confesses to Brian that she is ill-at-ease with Drake in the role of Trail Master. (It probably doesn’t help that he seizes her trail map and tosses it into the fire!) Zoe retires early to her tent and what follows is a superbly, creeptastic nightmare montage that turns the story onto its side and injects a serious dose of Sci-Fi into the tale. What follows is one bizarre story that includes spots of humor and (slight) romance, but is largely a Science Fiction tale of being lost in the woods with nightmares lurking around every corner and sitting inside your tent at night.
Produced and Directed by Eric Blue (Lost Crossing 2007, This Side Up 2009) and written by Blue and Traci Carroll (Five O’Clock Shadow 1998, Learning to Fly 2013), Beacon Point is 85-minutes of Science Fiction thrills set on location in Georgia and North Carolina. The film stars a superb cast of eclectic characters who offer much to the slow-build of this tension-filled Thriller. In fact, it is the realistic characters that make the story believable: after all, how many of us will stumble onto a Transformers-worthy statue in the middle of the woods?
The cinematography by Jim McKinney is superb. There are gorgeous mountain sunsets and quite a few shots of the landscape that would make even a National Geographic photographer titter with glee. One particular scene atop Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains – near the North Carolina/Tennessee border – is breathtaking. Similarly, as with any Horror or Sci-Fi film worth its weight, the film score by Kevin Riepl is pitch-perfect. The amalgamation of bizarre noises that herald the arrival of some of the films best jump-scares are perfect, as they are indiscernible as anything coming from the known world.
While Beacon Point is not particularly horrifying – and possesses only a few truly creepy moments – it traffics beautifully in those eerie, haunting scares that linger with the viewer long after its 85 minutes are up. Much as The Blair Witch Project made many of us fear the woods, Beacon Point will absolutely make you pause to consider your next hike. Do not misunderstand, however: these two films have only one thing in common and that is location.
For Beacon Point comparisons think instead of the new breed of wilderness thrillers – films like Patrick Rea’s Enclosure, aka Arbor Demon, or John Portanova’s Hunting Grounds – though this time with a Sci-Fi twist. Beacon Point is a wonderful hike into a world beyond our own and one that will leave you afraid to return to the trails. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Beacon Point 4 of 5 stars.