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YellowBrickRoad (Jesse Holland & Andy Mitton, 2010)
The initial half hour of
YellowBrickRoad seems to be slow
going, but the film is carefully setting up the material that it will use to
unsettle us later. A series of on-camera interviews conducted by the researchers
document the mental deterioration of the expedition party. Behavioral tics begin
to exaggerate in intensity. The woods grow increasingly atmospheric, with the
cinematography becoming hazier as the film progresses. Before long, the group is
in-fighting and murdering one another, seemingly driven mad by the mysterious,
looping music that emanates throughout the woods from some unknown source.
The despairing tone that overtakes YellowBrickRoad, as things get progressively worse with no sense of hope, is the stuff of great horror. At the same time, though, past a certain point, where it becomes quite obvious that everyone is doomed, there is no real suspense either. So, following a mid-film peak, the quality of YellowBrickRoad begins to slope downward. There is little to prepare audiences, however, for the film’s absolutely terrible ending, which presents a Möbius strip of time and space seemingly chosen at random. The last fifteen minutes here, which offer a lame hell-on-earth in lieu of anything resembling an explanation, obliterate the effective groundwork laid by the rest of the film.
YellowBrickRoad not only offers a mystery with no solution (which isn’t such a terrible thing by itself), but also a story with no clear sense of purpose. As the film stumbles to its close, it becomes less and less meaningful. By its end, it becomes apparent that its screenwriters had little but shock effects in mind, which is hugely disappointing given the promise of the initial set up. While it remains impossible to recommend YellowBrickRoad given the nosedive in quality that occurs during its dismount, in its slow buildup of dread, the movie does nonetheless suggest that its makers might have some talent.