YellowBrickRoad (2010)

OCTOBER 9, 2010

GENRE: PSYCHOLOGICAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (SCREAMFEST)

For all its problems, I will defend YellowBrickRoad against any haters, because despite several Wizard of Oz references, no one ever said “We’re not in Kansas anymore” (or any paraphrasing of it), which is one of those over-used clich├ęs that makes me want to kill screenwriters. Of course, it might have been said during the period where I stepped out to blow my nose, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

Owing a huge debt to Blair Witch Project, the movie is pretty good for its first hour or so, as we meet our group, learn about their goal, and watch them slowly crack up as they walk the titular path in hopes of discovering why the entire populace of the town (Friar, New Hampshire, which does not exist in real life) disappeared along the trail in 1940. It’s a straight-forward narrative (though there are occasional POV shots from a video camera), but the “based on a true story” thing, the fact that they get hopelessly lost in the woods, the psychological terror, strange sounds... it’s all very much Blair Witch-y, just from a different perspective.

But while that film had an ending that might have just disappointed some (i.e. we never know what made Heather fall), this one just goes completely off the rails, ending on what I assume is just a hallucination in the mind of the main character, the obsessed truth-seeker who looks like Dane Cook. I didn’t care if we got all the answers, but I sure as hell wanted to at least know what was going on at the end. And it certainly would have been nice to have some wrap-up text – “their bodies were never found”, or whatever. If you’re going to do the whole “This is based on a true story” thing, you have to stay committed to that idea. Instead, our main character finds himself in some sort of metaphysical movie theater, confused out of his mind. And then bang, roll credits. WTF?

And it’s a shame, because with a good ending this could have been a minor gem. I liked most of the characters, and screenwriter/directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton effectively gave them all different ways of going nuts – one reverts to an almost child-like state, one basically gets high, another goes batshit insane and tears his sister’s leg off... but all from the same external cause (the endless music that they hear as they get closer to their goal, plus basic panic as they get further lost/low on supplies).

I also enjoyed the medic of the group’s manner of keeping track of their mental state, by asking them basic questions every morning (“What is your full name?” “Speak in gibberish until I say stop”, etc). They could have done a bit more with it, the one big turning point moment is when one of them has trouble saying the alphabet backwards, which, for a lot of folks under normal circumstances, isn’t easy (I, however, can do it flawlessly!). The “gibberish” question could have had a cooler payoff, I think. But it’s still a good running “gag” of sorts, and is one of the better uses of the “character in movie is making a movie” premise.

If they go back and make a better ending (or even just cut the movie theater crap out entirely – there’s a shot of the hero crawling towards his goal – it would have been much more effective to let him crawl out of frame and end it there), I could see this being a cult favorite of sorts. It’s been a while since there has been a Blair Witch style movie (style plot-wise, not how it was made – we’ve had too many of those, actually), and I was in the mood for one. The unknown actors are pretty good, the story is interesting, and it has minor doses of unexpected humor (their reactions to a broken GPS are pretty hilarious). And again, it has a guy tearing someone’s leg off. So, worth a look.

What say you?


21 comments:

  1. I've seen so many negative reviews on this movie and the unsatisfying ending but I can tell you no movie has ever made me think so much. I thought trying to keep up with Donnie Darko was overwhelming but I'm talking about reflection of a movie the following day.

    I've recalled movies and scary parts, or gross homicides but this movie actually crawled into my brain and settled in. You can imagine how a sane person can slowly ponder suicide and homicide after the stress and hopelessness of being lost with other slowly mentally deteriorating colleagues. How this can cause you to just devalue yourself to not want to deal with life anymore, your own life and others. I thought it was a good look into what "civilized" people are capable of. I even thought the ending where the main character winds up exactly where he started at the movie theatre was quite ironic, where he and his group became the show he had to watch. I read this somewhere else but it was stated that they went looking for an evil but found the evil within themselves.

    A movie obviously not for those looking for some gory eye candy but rather a psychological mind f*ck. All in all I think it set out to do exactly what the writers wanted it to do. A bit different than most movies but I still liked it.

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  2. Donnie Darko was awsome and a totally mind f*ck, but this movie had the promise of being a good movie till it f*cked it up with in the 1st hour. It would have been better if they followed Momento and truly mind f*cked you. But then again horror movies just aren't as good as they used to be.

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  3. Wow, the retards on IMDB seem to really hate this movie.

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    1. Classy there Mr.Pseudo Intellectual; only if they were as smart as you!

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    2. The wierdest part of this whole movie, is the fact that the first town seen was filmed in Canaan VT., where I lived 8-9 years ago. The second scene is shot in Lancaster, NH where I reside now. I've been in the Rialto, granted it was VERY awkward to realize this when I saw it on the big screen. The even wierder thing is the fact that I've lived in this area all my life, and this movie was released in 2010, and I walk around this town all the time and I never once knew they where filming in this town........

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  4. Was anyone else strongly reminded of LOST? Surreal, creepy things happen to an interesting group in a remote wilderness, dissent in the ranks causes people to split up, decades-old conspiracies, mayhem and death, an ending that just leaves one going...what?

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  5. The movie wasn't terrible, it kept me thinking what id do in a situation like that. I think there shoulda been more to the story. The ending definitely sucked.

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  6. as far as me and my hubby this film was a load of crap the worst film we have ever seen.we would like to know what the hell was going on though the film

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  7. I thought the ending sucked at first but then I dwelled on it and came to the conclusion of why I think the ending was the way it was .. Here is my idea .. Near the end melissa says something about having a dream and she was home and it was black blah blah blah .. The same quote is repeated at the end when Teddy is in the theater and shown his wifes head in a field that's black and burning .. its pretty obvious the idea was that teddy was being chastised by losing everything he had then being made to watch it ( which is a theory about hell) I mean the whole thing was Teddys idea after being warned as well as the other characters demanding to return and where pressured to keep moving thus making the whole situation his fault .. there were people originally that where never found which leads you to wonder if there is some alternate supernatural dimension or something and the others who where never found physically found themselves at the "end of the road" over all I liked the film, The leg scene literally came out of no where which was a nice surprise. The music was creepy and was a nice touch but when it started getting very loud and skipping and banging it gave the idea that the music had a conscious ( or the being playing the music) which kind of wrecked it the music was "just there" and should of remained as such if you take the film for what it is its not bad definitely a WTF?!?!?! I think if it had been shorter and part of an anthology it would have been way better, I don't get the blair witch comparison .. ( Blair witch 2 maybe?) This film has more going on .. I found blair witch really quiet boring

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  8. Leg scene was dumb, kind of made the film a comedy because it seem so silly and out of place. The rest was great, but i agree with you on the main issues, as in no pay off for the camera stuff. The ending. Well, i knew it would be something like that, alot of movies have that. I would have been more impressed if they actually have him find a ruined castle or building or something at the end of it. He looks through it and finds the player and the music. An he turns it off and the film ends. Or he sits listening to it. Its still in his head, but is better than have a theatre in the middle of no where. Sometimes, in a serious movie, i like the imaginary thing they are searching for to actually be their.

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    1. The leg scene was actually a reference to the Wizard of Oz... actually, pretty much the only one I recall in the movie at all, and I just finished watching it on Netflix about 5 minutes ago. She was dismembered in a similar fashion too how the Scarecrow was torn apart; when they later found her mounted on a pole like a scarecrow it drove the reference home even more.

      I liked the movie. Like everyone else has said, I thought the ending was extremely week, but the first 3/4 of the movie was very unsettling and totally bizarre, and if the last quarter had been equal to the first 3 then I really think it would have been one of the great cult horror movies.

      Unfortunately, what we ended up being presented with was an enticing and promising set-up with a particularly poor and disappointing pay-off.

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  9. I agree that this was a great flick in terms of screwing with your mind in a pleasurable way. The music and fantastic sound design created a creep factor that few movies have equalled. It had a lot of interesting things going on that made it fun to watch. However, the last 30 minutes or so seem to go nowhere. The lead up to that point really make you anticipate something great, and it really goes nowhere. The final ending is still better, I think, than just having the main character crawl away. It was jolting and continued the theme of keeping the audience unsettled adn unsure. Still, if Stephen Spielberg could have tweaked this ending like he did Paranormal Activity, it probably would have been much better.

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  10. I enjoyed the movie. I think it was the entrance to Hell. To me, it really seemed like there were demons in the woods with them. Parts of the movie didn't make sense but the menacing feeling was there. I liked that it made me think and was creepy, which is much more than I expect from modern horror movies.

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  11. Since the premise of the whole town dissapearing included one survivor who was nuts... I was hoping the guy would show up at the theatre and just be NUTS... as if he had fully looped around from beginning to end- and tho he survived, he would be gone forever after that... just like the other one survivor...

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  12. I thought this movie was great, I don't know what people are complaining about, there is some real crap on netflix and this was quite a nice gem to stumble on after so many disappointments perusing the horror flicks available. Totally fitting that Anessa Ramsey is in it, she was great in The Signal as well. For folks who liked this movie I'd recommend that film, The Signal, as well as Pontypool. And personally, I find the idea of an ending that leaves you thinking the most successful kind of ending.

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  13. did no one hear them saying theres no place like home and about clicking their heels together that would also be a reference to the wizard of oz. and as far as the movie goes I liked it to some extent but I feel like at the end even with knowing or thinking that its making him watch all his faults it still seems to lack, I am not a person that likes questions I dont want to have to think about it for days or research like i am doing now but obviously the directors had that in mind because it seems as if everyone had to put a lot of thought into it.

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  14. did no one hear them saying theres no place like home and about clicking their heels together that would also be a reference to the wizard of oz. and as far as the movie goes I liked it to some extent but I feel like at the end even with knowing or thinking that its making him watch all his faults it still seems to lack, I am not a person that likes questions I dont want to have to think about it for days or research like i am doing now but obviously the directors had that in mind because it seems as if everyone had to put a lot of thought into it.

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  15. Try reading the review at http://weirdfictionreview.com/2012/04/at-the-end-of-the-path-a-review-of-yellowbrickroad/ for more clarification of this film. It made a lot more sense to me, including the last scene, because it related the mythos of the film to the era it was supposedly set in originally. And it made me think. Not many movies can do that anymore due to the mind-numbing plots and CGI overkill that's used these days.

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  16. Decent review. I personally, love this movie, loved the ending. I like to think. I have seen it a few times now...

    If you have time you should check out my review of the movie!! :)
    http://www.screensyndrome.com/yellow-brick-road-2010/

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  17. Just watched it this morning. I was probably like many others: I enjoyed it up to the end. I even watched it all the way through to the end of the credits, but all that was there was a rehash of the old photos from earlier in the film.

    In short, I'd LOVE to see a "behind-the-scenes" on this, with writer and director interviews. I'd want to know what was going on as well.

    I liked the element that this group of people weren't just stupid teens looking to get drunk/high/sexy/etc. They were professional adventurers, grown-ups, college professionals...you know, folks who knew what they were doing.

    Or, at least, they THOUGHT they did.

    When the dude went crazy and tore the girl's leg off, I didn't know what to think; it happened so randomly!

    My best guess to what was going on: The "walkers" were living in an underground, 'abandoned' bomb shelter or something, which is why the music could be heard above-ground. Maybe they were doing experiments on sound and human behavior..? I don't know; I'm working on an alternate (or extended, rather) ending of my own for it. It's not FAN fiction, since the end ruined the whole thing for me, but rather....
    ....
    FOE fiction.

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  18. Great buildup. Horrible ending....

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