To be honest this was a screener opportunity which was right inbox, right time. Being somewhat excited about the upcoming ‘Alien Covenant’ I have been going a bit bananas for Sci-fi horror recently and chanced upon ‘Beacon Point’, a science fiction thriller whose synopsis seemed to fit the bill nicely.

The synopsis provided on the press release sums the film up nicely so I will just go ahead and quote that rather than give my own take in this instance:

Zoe has quit her job to hike the Appalachian Trail as a tribute to her deceased father. She joins a small group of inexperienced hikers for an adventure of a lifetime. The group is, Dan, recently divorced and looking for a change from Silicon Valley, Cheese, a 17-year-old kid, and Brian, his half-brother he has just met. They are led by Drake, a hot-headed trail master with a questionable past. They are upbeat as they set out on the ten-day trek through the Great Smokey Mountains. Drake leads them away from the main trail and the tourists, promising a grand adventure and sights they’d never see with the standard tour. After a gruesome discovery, they become lost deep in the mountains. The adventure spins out of control when they are terrorized at their campsite by an unseen force.”

You will notice perhaps that the synopsis focuses a good deal on character as opposed to plot and ultimately this becomes evident in the film also with one being a far stronger component than the other respectively. Critically, this becomes a divisive element also as this neatly represents both the films strength and weakness also.

The plot, simply doesn’t really develop beyond the statement, and quite a bit of the run time requires patience from the viewer as the story stutters and meanders to its conclusion. The characters are indeed ‘terrorised’ but by an alien we don’t see, harassed in ways which are somewhat difficult to explain without ruining the reveal, but in any case, despite some good tension building sequences the payoff is somewhat limited to a couple of gruesome eye gouged cut away shots. There are some fairly trippy dream style sequences, and indeed some mind-bending set pieces which you will have to persevere with until the final sequence before any sense can be made from them – these at times are more frustrating than engaging. In the end, what began as an intriguing plot seems to write itself into a dead end by the end of the second act.

Admittedly the films plot does conclude with a satisfying exposition, but I felt that the somewhat schizophrenic switching between traditional ‘horror’ build-ups and then the character ‘stuff’ meant it didn’t really pay off in the whole ‘big message’ ending they were hoping for.

In all honesty, and I cannot believe I am putting this to page, but ironically  I think this film was at its best when it was working with its characters, rather than trying to intrigue or chill. It is exceptionally well acted, and indeed the production value overall is worthy of praise. It didn’t feel like I was watching a hammy sci-fi B movie at any point. The characters are great too, particularly ‘Drake’, whose past and current misfortunes justify the films overarching critique of human drives, motivations and internal turmoil. ‘Zoe’, who was intended I think to be the films lead was over shadowed by the gravitas of Drake’s character, which was a shame really, because in the end it became confusing who to route for, especially considering Drakes rather spotty history. The others, provided the staple love interest and comic relief. The interplay between the characters and the script was fluid and engaging. The development of characters really was what held by engagement to the credits, if I hadn’t have cared what happened to the character this film would have failed hard. As it turns out the film would have been a solid recommendation if the plot had developed in the same way.

Overall, ‘Beacon Point’ is a film which is worth a watch if you are looking for a camp chiller which doesn’t end with everybody being hack up by a masked maniac, and enjoy your characters with layers. It is touted as a thriller, but there are defiantly horror elements to appeal to both camps – just take no notice of the box art! I certainly remember no such scenes!   

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