Tuesday, August 7, 2018

In short: Dark Beacon (2017)

Warning: even though this is short, I still can’t avoid spoilers!

Amy (April Pearson) has been looking for her former lover Beth (Lynne Anne Rodgers) and Beth’s little daughter Maya (Kendra Mei) for some time, after they just packed up and left. Not that their sudden leaving is much of a surprise, for Beth was married when she and Amy were involved, and was dragged off a cliff and nearly drowned by her husband Christopher in a murder-suicide attempt based on his rather abstract notions of them not making good parents because she’s a self-involved alcoholic and he’s a coward. These mildly sordid details will only come out over the course of the movie.

For reasons, Amy finds Beth and Maya living in a lighthouse that is cut off from the mainland for much of the time. As it will turn out, the lighthouse is the house where hubby grew up. Something is very wrong there too. It is as if Christopher’s ghost is hanging around, planning to finish what he started. Or perhaps Beth is just going insane.

As liminal spaces neither belonging completely to the land or the sea, lighthouses are wonderful places to set all kinds of horror films in, be it the more philosophical version of supernatural horror, or, as in the case of Coz Greenop’s Dark Beacon, the psychological kind. The film is, alas, not a terribly successful example of its kind. To work as it should be, psychological horror does need a large degree of precision in characterisation and/or plotting. A film in the genre really needs to give its audience inroads into what goes on in its characters, otherwise we end up with something like this, where a ghost is simply the reason for a scenery-chewing performance of random movie madness instead of anything that feels like the product of actual psychological pressure.

I’m also not terribly fond of the way the film uses the supernatural, or rather, the vagueness in which it does, including scenes that only work if Christopher’s ghost is indeed real, but then letting things play out as if Beth were simply movie-crazy. It doesn’t exactly help the film’s case here that it is all too easy to read the madness as some sort of punishment for Beth’s “loose morals” – if it is indeed meant that way or not, I’m not going to guess.

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