Reviewer: John Carpenter
Release date: 6/1/2011
98 mins/Not Rated
How many people would say that the Yellow Brick Road from “The Wizard of Oz” is the scariest part about the 1939 classic? If anything, it was those creepy flying monkeys. The trail that Dorothy and crew traveled on does provide an interesting storyline though. It is a road that is full of adventure and mystery. Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton saw the potential this path has and decided to remove it from the world of family entertainment and give the trail a darker edge. While the yellow, the brick and the road may be absent from their feature length debut, “YellowBrickRoad” takes the allure of an unknown destination and mixes in a few frightening results.
Imagine waking up to realize the entire town has decided to take a hike into the wilderness. One morning in 1940, the population of Friar New Hampshire decided to do that very thing. Five hundred and seventy-two people went into the woods, leaving everything they owned behind. The U.S. Army sent out a search party which discovered grisly results. The remains of three hundred were found. Some were lifeless because they couldn’t handle the harsh conditions while others had been murdered. Being a dark moment in the history of Friar, the town has been trying to cover up these events for decades. This brief history is revealed just before the audience is introduced to Teddy Barnes (Michael Laurino), his wife Melissa (Anessa Ramsey) and Walter Myrick (Alex Draper). This trio is set to lead a team back to Friar in an effort to uncover the mystery of what happened to the town so many years before. With a little help, the team is able to overcome obstacles and find the infamous trail known as YellowBrickRoad. It isn’t long before this happy-go-lucky group finds out that there is a horrific truth behind a longtime legend.
I applaud the effort to bring a fresh coat of paint to the genre. “YellowBrickRoad” takes some time with the setup, slowly reeling in viewers with the promise that backwoods hicks and Blair Witches aren’t the only things that can be scary while in the sticks. The first half of the movie almost feels like “Lost” with seemingly random (and fairly supernatural) events haunting those on the trail. The problem is that this buildup is much like a visit to the strip club – there are a lot of interesting things to get a person worked up, but there isn’t ever a solid payoff. Much like “Lost,” writers Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton open a lot of doors, but never really bring closure to their eerie world. Being a fan of David Lynch, I certainly appreciate an open ended story. I don’t mind strange, self-interpretive films – in fact, I kinda love them. “YellowBrickRoad” doesn’t come across that way though. It feels a bit uneven, and after the slow burn first half, this may be frustrating to some.
This may be a flick that I simply need to watch a second time. I did enjoy the subtle way in which this group of explorers discovers why the town couldn’t survive their journey into the woods, but the overall feel of the movie didn’t settle well with me. I commend Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton for not only bringing an original tale to backwoods horror, but also for providing great depth to many of the characters. “YellowBrickRoad” is worth a watch for those willing to go with the flow and anticipate a somewhat bumpy ride. With a little more experience (or possibly a larger budget), these young writers/filmmakers may be able to fulfill their vision onscreen for the perfect blend of horror and originality.