“Beacon Point” (2016): Appalachian Mountains Hiking Expedition Goes to Chilling, Mysterious Places

Director Eric Blue’s Beacon Point is a captivating horror thriller  that I found to be a pleasant surprise. This low-budget indie gem is filled with mystery, well-realized special effects, and dynamic performances.

A group of hikers meet at the Appalachian Trail for a hiking trip deep into the woods. What the group members don’t know is that their reluctant but desperate tour guide Drake Jacobs (Jon Briddell) accidentally killed his boss in a heated argument just minutes before their trip began. Zoe (Rachel Marie Lewis, AKA Rae Olivier), the only woman in the group, is a real estate agent who decides that she wants to live life more fully. Joining her are tech employee Dan (Eric Goins), and newly acquainted biological brothers Brian (Jason Burkey) and Cheese (RJ Shearer).

A group of hikers unknowingly led by a desperate fugitive encounter mysterious forces in director Eric Blue’s  science fiction/horror hybrid Beacon Point.

Jacobs takes the hikers off the main trails so that he can evade capture for his crime; his increasingly erratic behavior is not the strangest thing occurring in the wild, though. Some of the group members start to fall ill, and something seems to be lurking outside their tents.

Eric Blue cowrote the script with Traci Carroll. The duo lets viewers know from the beginning that something deadly is hiding in the forest but keep Beacon Point’s mysteries close to the vest, dropping subtle clues throughout. The enigmatic history behind what lies just out of sight offers an interesting angle. Blue helms his first feature film confidently and admirably, with a keen sense of pacing and suspense building. He is aided by the marvelous cinematography of Jim McKinney, who captures the majestic beauty of the Appalachian Trail as splendidly as he does tight, gruesome close-ups of stricken victims.

Rachel Marie Lewis (AKA Rae Olivier, left) and Jon Briddell give fine performances as a young woman with a mission and a man running from justice.

Rachel Marie Lewis gives Beacon Point’s finest performance as the resourceful, determined Zoe, who has her own private reasons for going on the hiking expedition. Lewis brings previous horror film experience with her from The House of Good and Evil (2013) and the short Persephone (2014), and shows a wide range of dramatic emotions, along with some nice comic timing at the start of this movie. She’s definitely a talent to keep an eye on. Jon Briddell gives a strong antagonist turn as Drake Jacobs, one of the worst tour guides imaginable. Jacobs goes from rude and abrupt (viewers know why but the hikers don’t) at the start of the expedition to unhinged when the group is three days from civilization. Briddell plays the role well, never stepping over the line into the territory of overdoing things. The rest of the cast is quite good, as well, including Eric Goins as Dan, who is hiding secrets of his own.

Without giving too much away, Beacon Point treads into science fiction/horror territory. The science fiction elements are intriguing and show a great deal of ingenuity, working within the film’s lower budget without making the proceedings show the limitations of that budget. The horror elements are well done, too, including some impressively rendered gore effects from Toby Sells Creature Make Up FX Shop staffers Toby Sells and Mark James Ross.

Beacon Point is one of those films that goes under many horror fans’ radars, not getting a wide theater release nor major film festival buzz. It certainly deserves to find an audience, though, and I recommend it, especially for those looking for something different.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.