The YellowBrickRoad (aka Yellow Brick Road) is a 2010 Horror/Thriller written and directed by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton. Shot over the course of twenty days on a meager budget of approximately $500,000 and was the winner of the best film at New York City Horror Film Festival. I can say I genuinely enjoyed the first 89 minutes of this film, but unfortunately the ending 10 minutes completely destroy the film that proceeds it.
YellowBrickRoad opens with us learning the legend of the small New England town of Friar, whose whole population of 572 people walk up a secluded mountain trail. They leave behind their cloths, food and all necessities that would be required for this trip. A search party from the US military is sent after them. They find nearly 300 of the town’s occupants frozen to death or slaughtered, they find only one survivor driven mad by the journey, all others are unaccounted for. The government does a quite cover up that eventually relinquishes what happened to an urban myth. Now years later the coordinates for the trail head have become classified. Enter Teddy Barnes (Michael Laurino) acquires the coordinates to set off to make a book on the real yellow brick road. He, his wife Melissa Barnes (Anessa Ramsey) and their long time friend Walter Myrick (Alex Draper) assemble a team to explore the trail as it has never been explored being off-limits to even hunters and loggers. The team consists of Erin Luger (Cassidy Freeman), her brother Daryl Luger (Clark Freeman), Cy Banbrige (Sam Elmore) and Jill (Tara Giordano). After reaching the coordinates of the trail head they learn its a false start as it leads them to a theatre. The group frustrated at the townsfolk for not helping them find the trail head until they are approached by Liv McCann (Laura Heisler), who offers to show them where the real trail head is on the condition they take her with them. Teddy agrees and the group head off up the trail. After a distance the team starts hearing music echoing along the mountains as their navigational equipment fail and they start slipping into madness. The group eventually splits some heading up while others try to make their way off the trail only to learn that no one can leave the trail.
So as I said the first portion of the film was very good. The descent into madness is more about the psychological and less supernatural. The group becomes its own worst enemy as the start to turn suicidal and murderous. It’s a great exercise in good low-budget horror films much like the Blair Witch Project that this film is often compared against. But the films ending tries to give a half-hearted explanation that I feel is out of place and makes little to no sense. I’ve read other peoples takes on the ending and its meaning and while I can see where they are coming from I feel the film would have ending much better had no explanation been given at all. Leaving the us to figure out for ourselves what the Yellow Brick Road is or isn’t. This is an opinion widely shared, it seems. So I take some solace in not being alone in this opinion.
The acting is rather good I would even venture as far as saying great. The whole cast delivers very solid and believable performances that leave a strange feeling the takes time to fade away. YellowBrickRoad had first introduce me to Cassidy Freeman, who had become a series regular in Smallville after I had lost touch with the show. But now delights me as Cady Longmire in Longmire. Even though she is the first character to perish along the Yellow Brick Road, her death is among the most graphic and this is a film that doesn’t shy away from being graphic.
Another strong point is the films brevity at 99 minutes long. YellowBrickRoad stays around just long enough to tell the story its trying to get across without dragging it out for the purposes of simply being longer. It has little to no dead space which keeps the pace up and the atmosphere immersive.
So final thoughts, I did really enjoy this film. Then the ending came and for me simply ruined the whole experience. This happens to me rarely as I can often tell what the filmmakers are going for. I can only think of a handful of films that I feel would have benefited from simply ending it sooner, YellowBrickRoad is at the very top the short list. I can tell the actors or into what they’re doing and are enjoying it which accounts for a lot. I read that some of the cast members started having vivid nightmares while filming. I don’t know if that’s one hundred percent true, but I can believe it. But despite its interesting story, well acted, enjoyable characters and creepy atmosphere the dud of an ending puts such a sour taste in my mouth I have a hard time recommending this film. When I do, I often warn people of the terrible ending first and ask them to enjoy the ride to it. So despite its many enjoyable facets YellowBrickRoad comes in at meager 4/10.