YellowBrickRoad (2010)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-05-30 08:07

Written and Directed by: Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton
Starring: Cassidy Freeman, Clark Freeman, and Anessa Ramsey
Reviewed by: Brett G.

When I was a young kid, the events surrounding the Lost Colony at Roanoke fascinated me. It was the true story of how a bunch of 16th century English settlers simply vanished from their colony in North Carolina and only left cryptic message: ďCroatoan.Ē Several logical theories persist to possibly explain it, but my mind always liked to run wild and imagine that something supernatural happened to them. Thereís just something downright creepy about an entire group of people disappearing without a trace. The latest film in Bloody Disgustingís Selects series, YellowBrickRoad, has a similar starting point, so it caught my interest from the get-go.

In this case, the entire population of a small New England town decided to take off and walk down a remote mountain trail into the wilderness back in the 40s. No one knows why they decided to do this, but a search party eventually recovered the remains of most of them. Others went unaccounted for, and the whole thing remained a mystery. Now, seventy years later, the location of the trail (known as YellowBrickRoad) has been uncovered, and a team of researchers head down the trail in search of answers. Of course, they end up getting more than they bargain for when the trail takes them into a sort of Twilight Zone that causes them to lose their own sanity.

Oddly enough, The Wizard of Oz was another childhood fascination of mine since it was one of the first films I ever saw. YellowBrickRoad does some interesting things with that mythology by putting a dark, twisted spin on it; apparently, the townspeople were similarly obsessed with the Fleming film and set off to find their own wizard. Itís a cool premise that holds a lot of promise, especially when the film opens with some ominous documentary-style footage recounting those events. Once it shifts to modern times, it remains appropriately dreary and atmospheric. Though it sort of starts out as a sort of light romp into the woods, complete with some pranks and the usual obnoxiousness from some characters, it soon descends into a movie about people going nuts in the woods, a la The Blair Witch Project.

Itís only really similar to that film in the general premise though; whereas Blair Witch was a manic, frenzied affair, YellowBrickRoad is much more languid and relaxed. It relies on a quiet eeriness thatís occasionally punctuated by intense moments. One such moment is especially effective and comes about midway through the film: itís a murder sequence thatís captured in a quick long shot, and itís done in a way that youíre not quite sure what youíre seeing. But once the camera confirms what you think you saw, itís a pretty shocking moment that feels realistic in its voyeuristic gaze. Thatís sort of the movieís high point; after that, we just watch the group continue to wander down the path and continue to lose their grip on reality.

It doesnít manage to keep its focus or its intensity, and thereís some fat that could be trimmed here and there that could keep it more interesting. Still, itís sort of spooky stuff, as the desolation of the woods and the surrounding areas are captured well with the photography. Adding to the mood is the 40s music thatís playing deep in the heart of the woods, compelling the characters to keep moving. Phantasmal and alluring in quality, itís a haunting, mysterious force that keeps you wondering just what awaits at the end of the road.

The answer to that question isnít very satisfying, and the film kind of gets lost in the woods itself, but itís not an altogether wasted experience. YellowBrickRoad is a solid enough production with an above average cast. I especially liked Cassidy Freeman, who I actually recently discovered while watching the Smallville finale. Sheís got a certain presence and energy that leads me to believe she could be a star. The rest of the cast is solid enough to where things get really uncomfortable and resonant when they begin to break down and get at each otherís throats. Ultimately, YellowBrickRoad is a satisfying stroll into the woods--thatís a place horror fans are pretty accustomed to, but it's especially scary this time around because the terror subtly creeps into the mind more so than the flesh. If you live in select markets, you can check the flick out on June 1st; if youíre out of luck, itís still worth keeping on your radar to check out when it hits DVD. Rent it!

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