YellowBrickRoad (2010)




Continuing our journey through as I call it, "shit I missed" on Netflix. We come to YellowBrickRoad, a film I wouldn't have thought twice about if not for the fact that I just wrote a little blurb about it in relation to the upcoming Chiller TV anthology Chilling Visions. Co-Directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton will be plying their trade to that project next, but lets take a look at their first feature, well, first.

An information crawl before the film serves to set the stage for this lost in the woods thriller. Back in 1940 the entire town of Friar, New Hampshire left everything and headed up at mountain trail. They took nothing. Their money, their clothes, their personal belonging were all left behind. They even left their pets to starve and die. A rescue mission followed and found over 200 bodies either starved or murdered, but nothing f the bulk of the townsfolk. Since the original mission the people of Friar have remained a mystery. All subsequent attempts to gather info on the missing town have been thwarted through nefarious means - until now.

Teddy (Michael Laurino) gets a break when he is able to secure a mysterious package from an equally mysterious man. The package contains file related to the disappearance of the Friar group, including the once thought lost to time trail head. He assembles a group of fellow explorers, his wife Melissa, brother and sister mapping team Erin and Daryl, psychologist friend Walter, park ranger Cy, and intern Erin. Following the coordinates from the documentation, the group ends up in a spooky, old, movie theater. Thinking the townsfolk are just fucking with them they are ready to quit. Teddy meets local girl Liv, who claims her grandparents were part of the group that disappeared and that she know where the real trail begins.

The group proceeds rather uneventfully through the forest. Then the music starts - and the shit hits the fan. Eventually. It's subtle at first. Characters mumble. they wander off. The constant music becomes a source of discontent for some and joy for others. The film flips from mild psychological drama to backwoods bloodbath in one jarring instant. Or does it? While the first death is certainly shocking, the film settles back down into it's comfort zone shortly after. The group splits up and instead of following one group around the forest we are following three. Oy vey, right? Actually, splitting everyone up helps the film tremendously. The pacing picks up, the action picks up and the film (finally) moves from "what's going to happen?" territory to "what IS happening."

The 15 or 20 minutes where the group is separated, headed towards their own destiny is, by far, the best part of the film. Despite being essentially a "lost in the woods" film, the soundtrack and acting keeps the film firmly planted in demented Kubrick territory. It's only during the films final moments that film goes completely off the rails. Holland and Mitton try to get cute and in turn, create a twist ending straight our of a David Lynch film. It doesn't work and it's a shame. Until the last 5 minutes or so YellowBrickRoad is a solid film. The ending, while not ruining all the good will the film had built up earlier, certainly does enough to slide the film down a few notches.

YellowBrickRoad is slow to get where it needs to get to, but that's okay, when it does it's certainly worth it. Add to that one of the most jarring film soundtracks I've heard in a long time and YellowBrickRoad becomes an acceptable way to pass an hour and a half. Just don't expect too much from the ending.

**1/2 stars out of *****

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