SciFridays: “Yellow Brick Road” (2010)

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Points North Films

Baddie – TERRIBLE ending.

Lesson – It’s not how you start, but how you end. I cannot stress this enough.

Yellow Brick Road is a rather unassuming film that popped up on Netflix a while ago, and I finally go around to it. It’s billed as an exploration into the collective disappearance of an entire town in New Hampshire. As the movie goes on, things become slightly more clear. The entire town up and walked out and onto a trail into the woods. From this expedition, only one man survived, and fortuitously, that tired trope is left alone after that. The trail has been nicknamed ‘Yellow Brick Road’ presumably because The Wizard of Oz  was playing when the whole town went on exodus, left spinning in the projector.

Now, from there I was fairly surprised at the quality of this film. Really my only complaint is that the sound is a little wonky when the actors are indoors, but the outside scenes seemed fine. Well, the ending is awful, but, I’ll get to that.

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Points North Films

The first half of the movie is quite gentle. There are some implied fears, but the dialogue made me genuinely interested in what had happened, or at least how the disappearance/murders would be explained. The cover, as you can see, pictures a menacing face, so I didn’t know if I should expect it to be a slasher pic or not. There’s a little moment where Darryl has snuck off and comes back to lurk at the edge of the campsite until someone notices him, where he lunges forward and everyone breaths a sigh of relief. I really liked this moment, because it captured a moment of suspense and, again, I didn’t know what the ‘bad thing’ was yet. 

At this point, music starts playing in the woods around the group, softly at first. Initially, the group is curious, and even enamored. Then the music begins to echo their own restlessness and increased doubts in the reality of the situation. The mapping siblings (Erin and Darryl) begin to realize that their numbers aren’t adding up. And that’s where it gets crazy. Like, Darryl and Erin get into a sibling squabble that ends in a moment of pure terror and Darryl severing Erin’s leg at the hip with a rock and then pulling it off. This is observed with appropriate horror via binoculars, and the helplessness and displacement for the viewer, both the psychologist with the binocular and the audience, is very well executed.

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Points North Films

So now we can figure that the bad guy is psychosis, and that everyone is going a bit…mad. The civility of the group degrades from here in exciting ways. I don’t want to give too much away here, but, just, pay attention, because this film likes to do things in quiet subtle ways sometimes. Actually, I think the fact that it isn’t 100% nuts all the time makes it engaging and enjoyable as a horror flick, the ebb and flow of action is pretty solid.

That being said, the ending is so bad. It really soured my entire experience. It feels canned, and rushed (production/writing wise). This entire movie avoids cliches pretty well and uses Oz references in a way that isn’t annoying, and the acting is good, the effects are good, the writing is good, the filming is good, and then someone just vomitted over the whole thing with this ending. It’s ludicrous, and you can tell the actors don’t dig it at all either.

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Points North Films

I tried to see if there were significant Oz story parallels, and I couldn’t really find any significant instances other than the character of Liv, but it might need another viewing. There is a great part where Darryl is speaking from behind a hollow tree, so his voice is distorted, and it’s very evocative of the sadness behind the Tin Man, but that’s probably just me.

Feel free to tweet me any questions, recommendations, comments, compliments, whatever! Really, I just like the attention. 

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