Wednesday, June 15, 2011

YellowBrickRoad (2010)

Road To Nowhere

When a horror website as well-known as Bloody-Disgusting forms a production company to release "the best independent horror movies from around the globe", that sets up a lot of expectations. When the "#1 horror website in the world" puts their stamp on something, you're going to expect to experience some thrills, chills, scares, and violence like no other film on the market. Unfortunately, Bloody-Disgusting has chosen a dud with YellowBrickRoad, a film that starts off hot but ultimately leaves you bored and well... bloody disgusted that you just sat through the entire thing.

The film is a Blair Witch Project-esque treatment that follows seven researchers on the hunt for an infamous trail in Friar, New Hampshire where nearly 70 years prior, the entire town followed the path and went missing. A military investigation uncovered the dismembered limbs and ravaged bodies of many of the townsfolk, along with one survivor who had apparently gone mad from the horrors he witnessed. The fate of the rest remained a mystery, and the report was made classified until now, when one of the team members was able to obtain a copy. Eager to uncover the mystery behind the trail and turn it into a bestselling book, our seven protagonists head out into the wilderness for a long hike along the path, known by locals as the "YellowBrickRoad". Soon, the group is hearing old jazz music echoing in the distance, leading them to a number of theories about what really happened to the townspeople. Are they still alive? Is there a higher power at work? Are the researchers going crazy and enduring the same fate that occurred in 1940? Unfortunately, this nearly two-hour film never answers the questions it suggest, leaving everything to be interpreted by the viewer. In some movies, this is a brave and intellectual step. In YellowBrickRoad, it's just lazy.

Spot the actress who just realized she actually agreed to do this film
It's a shame that the film fails to follow through with the suspense and mystery surrounding its first thirty minutes. It has the ability to pull in the viewer, making them as eager as the researchers to find the answers they crave. However, the film spends the next 80 minutes with the team going crazy and turning on each other with so little warning, it's almost laughable. I'm all for psychological horror and films that take their time building suspense and terror, but when your script calls for immediate psychosis and stretches it out for the duration of the picture, that's just poor planning, especially when you reach the end and receive no answers whatsoever.

Cassidy Freeman spots a better acting opportunity in the distance
What's also unfortunate is that the film wastes a very talented cluster of actors because it fails to truly develop any of their characters. When you have actors like the gorgeous Anessa Ramsey (The Signal), who's probably the most likeable character in the film, it's sad to see their abilities underutilized because the script only calls for them to cover their ears and scream at one another every five seconds.

Anessa, you can walkie me anytime. Over and out.
The violence comes with an effective realism for the most part, but there are a few scenes that are still so "what the fuck?", you might find yourself stifling a giggle. I'm mainly referring to the first death in the movie, where two characters (who have already become semi-crazy) argue over a hat, which leads to a brief chase that ends with one of the characters having her fucking leg ripped off with little to no effort. The scene looks pretty amazing in its own and is truly shocking out of context, but trying to fit it into the movie so early with no violence or terror whatsoever preceding it, it's kind of like YellowBrickRoad prematurely blows its load, because nothing else in the film is going to be as outlandishly startling as that scene.

The consumption of poisonous berries is about the only thing that will give this movie some closure
I commend Bloody-Disgusting for using their resources to promote independent horror efforts, but I have to stress that this film is truly an "effort" in every sense of the word. Along with the cast, we follow a long and winding path that leads to nowhere, with salvation only coming in the form of IMDb message board questions and discussions with friends over what you think the film meant. But if you actually made another friend sit through this droning attempt at a psychological horror film, you're probably not a great friend in the first place. But hey, what do I know? I'm just a lowly horror fan with a small review site. The film has received praise outside the walls of my sarcastic sanctum. The #1 horror website in the world, Bloody-Disgusting, rated the film 7 out of 10, so that must mean something! Oh...wait.

"2 out of 5 stars? Fuck."
 2/5 Stars

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