By Andrew Buckner
Rating: **** out of *****.
Beacon Point (2016), the debut feature from co-writer and director Eric Blue, is a subtle, intelligent and enigmatic alien invasion tale. Yet, there is a human center, reflected in the familial motivations ultimately unveiled in the late stretches, which becomes the most masterful element in the cinematic arsenal of this eighty-two-and a half minute long production. Such a component draws an undeniable comparison to Robert Zemeckis’ brilliant adaptation of Carl Sagan’s same said 1985 novel, Contact (1997). There is also an undeniable alignment to be found in these aforesaid traits with Denis Villeneuve’s exceptional big-screen treatment of Ted Chiang’s fantastic short literary piece, “Story of Your Life” (1988), Arrival (2016). Additionally, the calculated, slow-burn method in which the events unfold, as well as the general setting itself, calls to mind Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s ground-breaking found footage exertion, The Blair Witch Project (1999). Adding to this varied pot of movie-going ingredients is the inclusion of a brief opening, that runs approximately two minutes, which appears to mimic the beefed up, action-oriented nature of John McTiernan’s Predator (1987). Though this commencing bit feels out of place with the cerebral and dramatic turns that take place throughout the rest of the attempt, it is an intriguing, if all too familiar, way to lure audiences into the narrative at hand. The next few arrangements afterward, oddly enough, seem as if they are lifted from another entirely different category of chronicle: the buoyant comedy. Such creates a strange confection of genre beats. Yet, Blue, blends them into the arc seamlessly and sharply. This makes the overall result of the affair additionally admirable and unique.
Blue tells the account of a realtor, Zoe (in an unflinching, well-rounded and always captivating portrayal from Rae Oliver a.k.a. Rachel Marie Lewis). In the previously addressed early comic stages of the photoplay, we see her deliberately trying to get her potential buyers out of the house as quick as possible. This, we learn, is so that she can start a ten-day hiking trip through the Appalachian Trail. Yet, almost as soon as she departs on this journey, which promises an escape from the tribulations and stresses of the laboring world, she finds herself plagued by surreal nightmares. These are horrific visions she silently believes to be true. As those around her start to get sick and act strange, and sights lapse unexpectedly into her brain from her childhood, she soon learns that there is an extraterrestrial menace that has chosen the group. From herein, viewers are treated to a perfectly symmetrical balance of finely tuned and staged horror arrangements and personal drama. This is as we follow Zoe in her attempts to reveal why she has been targeted in this fashion.
The plot is both bold and amusing. It is made increasingly gripping via Blue’s taut, visceral direction. The highlights of the fabrication, a terrifying flashback segment spied at the midway mark and the appropriately cryptic and beautifully made climax, are definitive proof of Blue’s abilities in this arena. Yet, the script Blue penned with Traci Carroll is just as solid. It is smartly, meticulously paced. Correspondingly, it is filled with credibly authored and delivered dialogue. Even if the twists are a mixed bag, with about half being expected and the rest a genuine surprise, this respective item is another pleasant component of the photoplay. It starts early on and is administered frequently throughout the runtime. The constant character focus is just as admirable. Likewise, the spectacular performances all around only augment this factor. Jon Briddell is excellent in his turn as the often-hostile group spearhead, Drake Jacobs. Eric Goins’ enactment of the overworked, but still frequently comical, Dan, is magnificent. Jason Burkey gives a stellar depiction of Brian. He quickly summons a flirtatious rapport with Zoe. RJ Shearer as Cheese is also wonderful in his particular representation. Furthermore, Jason MacDonald as Zoe’s Dad, Paisley Scott as Young Zoe, Jayson Warner Smith as Hunter and Randall Taylor as Phil are immensely proficient in their secondary roles.
Also, assisting matters is Kevin Riepl’s gently melodic, and ear-pleasing, musical score. Such punctuates every movement of the picture splendidly. The cinematography from Jim McKinney is illustrious and always striking. Scott Salamon’s editing is fluent. The make-up, costume, camera and sound department institute a terrific contribution. Deron Hoffmeyer’s visual effects are similarly impressive. Best of all, Blue’s flick mechanizes them in a manner that has proven most successful and effective with anecdotes of this ilk: only sparingly. Such makes this Georgia and North Carolina recorded endeavor refreshing and noteworthy. It even adds a welcome, old-fashioned touch to the proceedings. Bystanders only get the briefest glimpses of the creatively designed otherworldly entities that dominate the title area. This is with our fullest view transpires at the thirty-four minute mark to great consequence. But, what we see is certainly enough to enduringly haunt and intrigue us.
In this category, as well as many others, Blue succeeds at getting our psyches to ponder what we have seen. Yet, he doesn’t use the creature from outer space scenario purely for fear (as is the case of far too many similar efforts nowadays). There is a sense of awe; a yearning to understand what is occurring that is ever-present. This decision immerses us in Zoe’s attempts to unravel this ancient secret that has been thrust her way even more. Consequently, it makes us care. This is while giving us something to think about. Such makes Beacon Point, which will be released on video on demand and DVD through Uncork’d Entertainment on May 2nd , 2017, tower above its predecessors. In turn, Blue has crafted an illuminating and electrifying experience. This is a must-see for fanatics of thought-provoking science-fiction and horror alike.
(Unrated) Contains violence, adult themes and language.
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