Posted on August 12, 2008 by Monica Valentinelli
Filmed on location in gorgeous Marin County, California, The Beckoning is an independent horror film based on the legend of Sir Francis Drake. In 1579, Sir Drake landed in California, claiming the land as “Nova Albion” or “New White.” The story of the film is a look at a legend surrounding this historical figure; Drake’s burning of a Native American woman at the stake for setting a pox upon Natives and English alike.
Opening with a young, college co-ed, the first scene sets the tone for much of the rest of the movie. The pacing is deliberate and slow, which causes us to focus on the main characters and places a lot of emphasis on the small cast; Barbara (the curious college student), Vic (her boyfriend professor) and Jackie (Barbara’s friend). Shot on a low budget, the cinematography is professionally done as we follow Barbara from place to place while she focuses on her obsession — researching the legend of Sir Francis Drake.
Plotwise there is a lot of potential for the story; as I mentioned before the biggest challenge is the pacing. While no doubt difficult to film on a low budget, there is a lot of driving, following and getting to and from place to place which turned segments of the film into haunted soliloquies. Solo scenes are probably one of the most challenging pieces of any film to enthrall and continue the audience’s interest; The Beckoning is no exception to that rule. There were several moments where I held my breath, wondering what was going to happen next, only to lose interest because repetition stepped in again. What I wanted was a faster pace that dragged me by the hand, instead of a pace that asked me to follow along.
I liked the casting for the film because it made the story more believable; the actors and actresses looked like human beings instead of Hollywood-esque carbon copies. Makeup was flawless and, for the most part, special effects were too; costuming for the historical periods was a little strained, but I felt that that was to be expected because accurate historical costuming is expensive and impossible to come by. (Oddly enough, I happen to know this after trying to find a revolutionary-era costume for myself last year.) Fortunately, there were no sloppy costuming errors for the modern era which shows that the crew paid attention to detail. For example, I think that Barbara is the first character in the history of horror films to be wearing cute flats instead of high heel monstrosities; the native american-inspired beadwork on her shoes was a nice touch–especially when she dropped one in a pile of rats.
The choice for the music soundtrack was, refreshingly, an original composition by Kevin McDaniels. Here again the music sets the tone; soft and haunting, but not “in-your-face” horror. A nod to the production crew, the music and sound were set and timed perfectly with the cinematography.
I liked that this film wasn’t trying to be like all the other “historical horror” films on the market. I also liked the plot’s premise–that your present can be affected by your past and there’s nothing you can do about it. The main actress, Lindsay Drummer, worked exceptionally hard during the long, “waiting” periods of the film to look natural and was definitely the highlight of the film. You can tell that she put her heart (and screams)–into the role. Her professor boyfriend Vic, played by Cameron Zeidler, was a nice compliment to her character, although at times Cameron’s performance was a bit stunted. In part, this is due to the movie shifting its impervious, all-seeing eye on Vic after Barbara is nowhere to be found.
Robert Currier’s interpretation of Sir Francis Drake was exceptional — he is a proud, arrogant and righteous interpretation of the character and I wanted to see more of him. His “Sir Francis Drake” is a man who believes in witchcraft and burning women at the stake for it. Jackie and Frank, the two other characters for the “modern” portion of the film (with the exception of a few, bit parts that were seamlessly matched with the rest of the characters) were played by Deidre Kotch and John Conway, respectively. Jackie was exceptionally creepy playing her shamanic “past,” and Frank did a superb job as the all-too-knowing handyman. Though I have to admit that one of my favorite scenes in the film was the fight between Jackie and Barbara; it was more than realistic and what the fight between Halle Berry and Sharon Stone in Catwoman should have been.
As the film ends with more of that beautiful Marin County scenery, we’re left with more questions and “What ifs?” True to suspense films, there are mysteries that will never be solved, fates that have yet to be decided.
Who is this film for? If you like Freddie or Jason, then you’ll want to pop your beat-up copy of Nightmare on Elm Street into your DVD player and watch that for the millionth time. The Beckoning is a low-budget film that tells a story. This movie truly is what independent film making is all about and, as always, my reviews will be based on all of a film’s merits and will take a film’s budget into account.
At $19.99, the film is professionally packaged and offers special features like the blooper reel, the making of and the history of Sir Francis Drake. To pick up your copy of this indie film, visit the official website of The Beckoning movie.