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It’s sad in this day and age when a movie receives critical acclaim simply because it is a return to character-driven storylines that rely more on atmosphere and mood than violence and gore. Guess what? Just because you spent more time developing your characters than you did your scares doesn’t mean you automatically get a golden review. Such is the case with directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s 2010 genre endeavor “YellowBrickRoad”, a film that takes its sweet time getting to the good stuff, only to fumble the chills at the very last second. Maybe I didn’t understand what Holland and Mitton were going for. Maybe the entire movie simply went over my slightly misshapen skull. Whatever the case may be, I didn’t like it, even if it did allow you to get to know the characters before dispatching them one by one. A boring movie is a boring movie
The film follows a group of ambitious young adventurers who set out to investigate the disappearance of the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire back in the 1940’s. According to legend, the residents of this tiny New England town suddenly decided they needed to follow a mysterious path leading out-of-town, a decision which would ultimately lead to their demise. When someone finally noticed they were missing, the US Army set out to properly investigate this bizarre occurrence. What they found, of course, were lots of dead bodies, some of which had been savagely slaughtered. In order to keep the new citizens of Friar from making the same mistake, the trail was closed, and anyone caught trespassing in the area would have to answer to local law enforcement officials. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for tall tales to take root.
Years later, the area is no longer off-limits, allowing anyone and everyone with a hankering for adventure to trek deep into this previously-forbidden woods without restriction. It doesn’t take very long for a small group of young people to gather together, pack up some gear, and venture into the unknown to unravel the mystery once and for all. At first, it seems as though their mission is nothing short of futile, that is, until things start to get a little freaky. A few of the hikers start to lose their minds, while others begin hearing very odd sounds somewhere in the distance. As these events begin to escalate, the bodies start to stack at an alarming rate, and before you know it, everyone’s on edge. Is this just another case of mass hysteria, or is there something evil lurking on Yellow Brick Road? Here’s hoping you’re not looking for clear answers.
I tend to like most “slow burn” horror flicks, especially those deliberately-paced efforts that earn the right to take things a little slower than usual. Sure, there is a smattering of effective moments sprinkled throughout “YellowBrickRoad”, but they’re certainly not enough to dethrone the overwhelming boredom I experienced during my screening. It’s a frustrating motion picture, for sure, and it requires a lot of patience on the part of its audience. And while I appreciate what filmmakers Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton were attempting to accomplish with this project, I can’t help but feel that they expended way too much energy making sure their story was slow and character-driven than crafting something people actually wanted to watch. The damned thing just isn’t that fun, despite the fact that it’s built on a premise that was brimming with potential.
Regarding that character-driven storyline: It’s impossibly hard to care for anyone in the film, thanks in part to some extremely dodgy acting and a heaping helping of needless melodrama. Reaction shots are often unintentionally hilarious, as well; I found myself laughing aloud during supposedly intense sequences on numerous occasions, which is never a good thing when you’re dealing with self-serious horror. Adding insult to injury is the film’s conclusion, a totally nonsensical segment that suggests the writers had absolutely no idea where the story was headed in the first place. When the film ended, I felt cheated, manipulated, and, worst of all, incredibly sleepy in the middle of the afternoon. This unsatisfying and admitted confusing destination was definitely not worth the ride, which, I must say, wasn’t that entertaining, either. What a shame.
“YellowBrickRoad” is a massive disappointment. However, if you enjoy indie horror flicks dipped in artsy low-budget tomfoolery and well-developed characters that really aren’t that well developed, there’s a very slim possibility that you may find something to redeemable about this particular excursion. Despite my issues with the picture’s story and execution, I do think that Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton may have a future in the genre. They have a knack for creating unsettling scenarios, and, given the right material, could possibly put together a flick that doesn’t make me want to gnaw off the tips of my elbows just to stay awake. “YellowBrickRoad” might be a return to old-school horror in terms of style, but at the end of the day, you’re nothing unless you’re entertaining.
Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton (directors) / Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton (screenplay)
CAST: Cassidy Freeman … Erin Luger
Anessa Ramsey … Melissa Barnes
Laura Heisler … Liv McCann
Tara Giordano … Jill
Clark Freeman … Daryl Luger
Lee Wilkof … Clerk / Usher
Alex Draper … Walter Myrick
Michael Laurino … Teddy Barnes
Sam Elmore … Cy Banbridge