It took ten years, but someone finally did “The Blair Witch” the right way. The people behind “Yellow Brick Road” made a psychologically tense film about a group of people being affected by the isolation of the woods and the despair of not knowing what will happen in the situation. Among the atmospherical creepy settings, sounds and situations there is also a fair amount of gore for those who are looking for something more than, what goes bump in the night. The film also creates one of the best twists on the “Wizard of Oz” ideals out there, even though it may be a morbid take on it all.
In 1940, the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire all dressed up in their finest clothes, left behind all their other belongings and headed out along an unmarked path. The film also implies at one point that they all did this in the middle of viewing, “The Wizard of Oz”. A lot of the towns people were found frozen to death, others slaughtered, but most were not found at all. There was one survivor who appeared, but no sense could be made of anything he said. It is now 2010 and after years of fighting with politicians and townspeople, a man, his wife and their close friend have been granted access to the coordinates of the unmarked path that led to the town’s demise. With the addition of a some extra hands they go off into the woods to discover what happened and document it for a book.
By now you can guess things do not go as planned, even when they first get to town; the coordinates they were given just lead them to a movie theater. But once they are on the right path, things get weird very quickly. First they hear some odd faint noises which turn into a very audible and distinct playback of classic 1930′s songs. At first, even as creepy as it is, they all seem to embrace what soon becomes a torturing soundtrack as they descend into madness. Their instruments do not work properly, as if they were in the Bermuda triangle and the only course of action is to move forward. The plot does not veer too far from what you expect, but it does exceed all expectation in terms of style and mood. And here is the best part about it all, especially for a low-budget horror film; GOOD ACTING!!! There are no academy award-winning performances of course, but each and every part was played with grace and sensibility.
Another strong point of the film is that it does not run too deep into its, ”The Wizard of Oz” references. Yes, there are a few, maybe even plenty. The film makers were smart though to stop short of it becoming ridiculous and a lot of the specific references that do appear I think paid off very well. Of course, overall the film as a whole is a reference to the classic film/story. Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” gets swept away when she feels the need to escape her troubled life only to discover all she wants is to go home; and she gets the happy ending. The main characters of “Yellow Brick Road” want a break from what the future has in store for them. They were just set to give up their big hunt to find out what happened to Friar, New Hampshire and settle down and get tenure as teachers (this is not true for all of them, but I use it as illustration). But when the opportunity to continue the journey presents itself, so does an escape from a monotonous life; where they feel more at home. Unfortunately for them, their home turns out to be a place where mans true animal nature lives.
The film does have one major problem that does bug me a little bit, but it is slightly easy to look over. I like to call it the “Memento” hole. In “Memento” Leonard can not hold on to new thoughts after he hits his head, yet he still knows to tell people he has a problem he should not be able to remember. In “Yellow Brick Road” as I stated in the run down, a lot of the towns people were found frozen or slaughtered. Based on what the characters we follow experience, shouldn’t the teams of people who found all of those frozen or dead bodies have experienced the same thing? But like I said, I am willing to overlook it based on the rest of the film being so good.
I was given the opportunity to view “Yellow Brick Road” at this years NYC Horror Film Festival. I would like to thank the festival organizers for putting together this years run of films and bringing “Yellow Brick Road” to my attention.