My first impression after finishing YellowBrickRoad was that it was simply okay…fairly well made on a low budget and certainly watchable, but narratively muddled and somewhat hampered by bland characters.
But damn, if I didn’t find myself thinking about that movie the rest of the night. While never particularly scary, a growing sense of unease insinuates itself into the viewer, even if they might not be aware of it until afterward. So I was compelled to watch it again, appreciating YellowBrickRoad more for how it made me feel than what it had to say.
It begins promisingly with a prologue showing that, in 1940, the entire population of a small town ventured into the woods. Some turned up dead, but most disappeared without a trance. That event becomes sort-of an urban legend and the catalyst for the plot, which has a team of researchers trying to deduce what really happened by attempting the same trek. This doesn’t sit well with most of the locals, all of whom refuse to talk about that night.
YellowBrickRoad serves-up the usual “there’s something in the woods” storyline. However, it’s what writer-directors Andy Milton and Jesse Holland do with it that’s interesting. Yes, there is indeed something in the woods, but while we’re never certain what, it’s clearly omniscient and slowly driving the group insane (in the case of one team member, murderously insane). The journey goes on for days, their compasses stop working, they run out of food and almost constantly hear ‘40s-era big band music coming from…everywhere. It grows louder the further they walk, sometimes punctuated by mechanical shrieking. Infighting and madness soon splinters the group, each facing a variety of fates as they venture on their own.
|"I could've had a V8!"|
YellowBrickRoad increasingly feels like a fever dream before (sort of) coming full circle with a final scene that’s either intriguingly ambiguous or frustratingly nonsensical (results may vary, of course). Along the way, there are the expected allusions to The Wizard of Oz (some clever, some heavy-handed) as well as sparing-but-potent bursts of shocking violence to put an exclamation point on things. Other than a lack of engaging characters - arguably the film’s biggest drawback - this surreal journey is worth taking…probably more than once to really appreciate it.
FEATURETTES - “Walking the YellowBrickRoad”; “Practical Blood FX on an Indie Budget.”
INTERVIEWS - Individual interviews with Andy Milton (director/co-writer), Jesse Holland (director/co-writer), Cassidy & Clark Freeman (actors/executive producers) and Eric Hungerford (producer)
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By directors/writers Andy Milton and Jesse Holland.