I was recommended the film Yellowbrickroad by a friend who knows how diverse my taste in horror films is. He was of the opinion that I would enjoy it, but was quick to add that he did not. “Think The Shining meets The Long Weekend meets Picnic At Hanging Rock”, he said. Since I’ve got some love for all three of those, I figured what the hell? I’ll give it a go. Right out front, I’m going to tell you that this film is at least ninety percent bad vibes and spooky atmosphere and ten percent visual scares; I don’t want to give you guys any misconceptions; I respect you too much. Yellowbrickroad relies on its inherent creepiness, fear of the unknown, and the talent of its actors to generate unease; no boogeymen, no gotchas; just a whole heap of uncomfortable wrongness permeating the film.
A group of researchers set out to the small town of Friar, New Hampshire, where in 1940 the entire population simply upped and headed into the woods, never to be seen or heard from again. We spend a little time getting to know the group over breakfast at a greasy spoon on the way to the town, then the crew heads to the GPS coordinates of the beginning of the trail-head…and wind up in the town movie theater. Needless to say, they’re a little peeved (the grant money wasn’t easy to get, and the guy in the box office is a real asshole), but fortunately the concessions girl knows where the real trail-head is; the Yellow Brick Road, as it’s known by locals. She agrees to show them when they concede to taking her along, and soon, the group is on its way into the foreboding forest. The going is slow, and we’re treated to some video experiments conducted by the psychologist of the team, as well as the survival skills of the guide. One night when they’re deeper into the woods, they find a period-accurate hat from the missing town; their first evidence! Everyone is excited and ready to press on…but from there, strange occurrences begin to plague the expedition; before it’s over, their very sanity and reality itself comes into question, and it’s unclear if it’s base instinct or something more insidious at work in their deteriorating minds.
The story is taut through and through, but I can see where some would find the plot difficult to enjoy. The acting is quite good for a film of this budget; we get a good bit of character development early on, and it’s because of this that we’re invested in this group of researchers. Watching what happens to them raises our questions, our fears; why and what become prevalent interests, but they’re outshone by the performances of the players reacting to an unraveling reality. The cinematography reflects the beauty of the wooded landscape, but a skillful DP and apt direction uses the panoramic scenery against us at times, showing nature as not a loving spirit, but as one filled with at best indifference, at worst, hate. Speaking of that, although I’ve told you how much this film relies on feeling rather than visuals, there are a couple of tidbits for gorehounds. They’re quick, and done in such a way that they hide the lower budget, but they are quite effective in the way they’re used. There’s a bit of a twist at the end, and although it toes the line, it’s suitably odd and fitting enough to the overall story to just miss “Contrived” and mebbe just touch the edge of “Hokey”. I thought it worked within the context of the film.
What can I say? I liked the film; I really got into the feel of it, and for me the question of why? took a backseat to what is becoming of them? I truly just rolled with it and let the story take me where it went. However, without any doubt I can understand why this film would not appeal to a lot of you Fellow Fans; it’s a slow, slow burn, and other than the aforementioned brief bloody mess scenes, you don’t ever really see a goddamn thing. You don’t even get so much as a hint as to what the hell is going on, you just know something is. It’s pretty much all atmosphere, and I can see where folks could feel cheated; after all, not everyone is as weird as I am.
So please, heed my words; if you’re looking for a conventional-type horror flick, watch this one at your own risk; no hate mail, please…I warned ya. If, however, you’re the type that enjoys a creeping dread whilst trying to figure things out, try this one; step into the abyss. Don’t expect revelations, or even clues; instead, find yourself trapped in the same hell as the characters, more of a participant than an outside observer, and try to ascertain their fate.
Best of luck to ya. =)
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