Yellowbrickroad Movie Review
Written by TGM
Directed by Jesse Holland & Andy Mitton
Written by Andy Mitton & Jesse Holland
2010, 98 minutes, Rated R
To be shown only at AMC theatres starting June 1st, 2011
Cassidy Freeman as Erin Luger
Clark Freeman as Daryl Luger
Anessa Ramsey as Melissa Barnes
Laura Heisler as Liv McCann
Alex Draper as Walter Myrick
Michael Laurino as Teddy Barnes
Lee Wilkof as Clerk / Usher
Yellowbrickroad is the story of a group of journalists and researchers who set out to unravel the mystery of the inhabitants of Friar, New Hampshire. Evidently, back in 1940, the entire town went for a stroll in the woods and never returned. When a rescue party eventually found the bodies it was observed that while some had died from exposure, the majority clearly were the victims of a violent and heinous attack. Following the exact same footsteps some seventy years later, our fearless troupe soon begin to be tortured by the sounds of incessant music echoing in their heads. Eventually they succumb to a madness that demands they commit awful and vicious acts on themselves and others.
Yellowbrickroad is a tough film to fully embrace. It’s essentially broken up into three acts that don’t necessarily play well together. The weakest part, by far, is the first act. The setup simply takes too long to develop with not much happening until about forty-five minutes in. The beginning plays like one of the weaker episodes of Lost, with a lot of trudging through the wilderness and unexplained noises on the horizon. If you manage to fight that urge to stop watching then you will eventually be rewarded with a fantastic second act where everybody starts to go batshit crazy on each other. Some truly nasty and unexpected events go down which go a long way in making up for the tedious intro. In retrospect, if the seemingly endless opening did a little better of a job of establishing the characters and their relationships then it might have been worth sitting through that initial ordeal. I’m fairly convinced if the first act was trimmed down, and the choice was to elaborate on the insanity of the midpoint, then we’d be talking about an instant horror classic here. This all leads to a quick final act that, for better or worse, is reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining, with a muddled ending that leaves you somewhat bewildered and ultimately unsatisfied.
I wish for once that these types of supernatural mind-fuck movies had concise endings that clearly explain why things play out like they do. They always seem to culminate in a crescendo of disjointed imagery and murky hastily weaved plot points that leave you wondering what the hell you were supposed to glean from the whole affair. Sure, some will argue that a confusing and ambiguous ending is the far better choice as it opens things to ones own interpretation. Bah, I say. Perhaps that used to be the case in the late ‘80s and ‘90s when the status quo of horror/thriller endings were nicely wrapped up in a cute little bow just waiting to be easily digested by a mass audience. But ambiguity is now the norm, which makes such convoluted endings feel stale. I am convinced that the majority of time writers of movies such as this have no real clue how to end it, so for all intents and purposes they don’t. It’s akin to putting together a rather intricate puzzle, just to find out that you’re missing the final piece. Look, you don’t have to spoon-feed me, but at least give me all the tools necessary to figure things out for myself.
I do applaud the decision not to go the tired “found footage” route that this concept could have easily lent itself to. Thankfully the audience is not tortured with 98 minutes of nausea inducing shaky-cam, and we are presented with an offering from directors who appear to be tremendously competent. The performances, mostly unknowns and television actors, are consistently above average with nobody particularly standing out in either a good or bad way.
Yellowbrickroad is a mixed bag where the good ultimately outweighs the lackluster with a first act that will truly try your patience, an ending that might leave some feeling disgruntled, and a middle that is borderline brilliant.
Video, Audio and Special features:
As this was a screener, I won’t comment too much on the audio and video, but this particular copy was in anamorphic widescreen, showcasing a disappointing 2.0 audio track. Seems a rather odd choice for a movie about a group of people tormented by eerie sounds and mind-numbing music while getting lost deeper and deeper in a forest. If ever there was a movie that screamed to be presented in 5.1 (or 7.1) surround, it would be this one. I hope this is something that is addressed in the final DVD release, as I suspect it will add an entirely new dimension to the overall enjoyment of this film.