Director:Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton
Summary: In this indie horror offering from writer-directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton, a small team of explorers heads into the New Hampshire wilderness to investigate an unexplained disappearance that happened some 70 years earlier. No one knows why the residents of Friar made a collective decision to leave their homes -- without their money, their clothes or a word about where they'd gone. But the truth could be stranger than fiction.
My Thoughts: "Long, boring, and absolutely no thrills or scares. At least not for me. I had a hard time keeping my fingers from pressing the stop button. An antagonizing film that just leaves you frustrated for renting it in the first place. But that's what I get for being intrigued by a title and cover of a DVD. The story may have been better if directed and acted by different people. But it wasn't and that's why I would rather watch an episode of Barney then to have to sit through this film again."
Whenever I write a negative review for a low-budget, independently-made horror film, I'm not lacking in encouragement towards the filmmakers. By all means, I do encourage indie films to be made in spite of their flaws. They can lead to eventual success. Or they can lead to more failure. And if they make money, that's great. There are many horror fans and they eat these kinds of films right up. I've seen indie horror films that are possible to like as well as ones that are possible to despise. And now, "YellowBrickRoad" decides to come along, and it's a particularly unpleasant experience.
But that's the point, right? The film is supposed to be atmospheric and unsettling. It is very-much interested in its setting, but not so much for its characters. Shame about that; here is a film that has a pretty good premise, but it runs the formula that it's based around into the ground. It's not fun to watch and it's not necessarily deserving of all the attention it's been getting. But it doesn't surprise me that the folks at Bloody Disgusting, the popular website devoted to horror films, did most of the advertising. But in the end of the day, that doesn't mean too much.
In Friar New Hampshire, it is said that the ENTIRE population of the place just walked out of town and into the woods; following a trail that they believe will lead them to some sort of God. They never returned. And nobody knows just what happened to them, but that's why a film crew goes hiking on this trail to uncover the truth; as all curious movie-hikers do.
It's been seventy years since all the people disappeared, so maybe whatever got them isn't in the woods anymore. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that the film's cast of characters goes on this journey into the depths of the woods anyways; without questioning, and without reasoning. I would have just stayed away.
The film has two directors. One of them is Jesse Holland, and the other is Andy Mitton. The two also wrote the film together. As directors, the two men seem to focus a lot on characterizing their forest rather than the human beings hiking in it. Expect some bleak, but somewhat beautiful shots of the wilderness and such, but not much more. I wouldn't tell you not to see the film, and if you do see it, you might want to just for what the filmmakers are trying to do.
However, trying and doing have never been the same thing, and this is why "YellowBrickRoad" fails so miserably. What it tries to do is build tension and atmosphere rather than use just a whole lot of blood-and-gore, but this approach is almost becoming a pretension among filmmakers. Some people can make a film that is good, and doesn't need gore; others cannot. For instance, Ti West's "The House of the Devil" was all build-up, and yes, it did have a bloody finale. But I liked that film for reasons other than the ones that pertain to why I dislike this one. It gets what makes a good, tense thriller and what makes a bad one. The directors are too inexperienced to glorify this material and bring it to anything worth talking about. The result is overly talky and overlong (and I say that in spite of the nearly-100 minute run-time, which isn't long at all, but oh boy: it certainly feels like it is).
In the end, the film didn't give me enough reasons why I should be awake. There's one scene that literally attacks the viewer with sounds, sight, and insane madness. This scene was meant to be artsy, much like the rest of the film, but instead it's just trying to keep us awake by force; and that's bad, bad, bad. The flick is nothing more than a very, very bad excuse to show people going into the woods, investigating, going mad, and killing each other. There aren't enough good reasons to go on this long, treacherous walk in the woods. Save yourself some time and attention and see something like, say, "Insidious". If this year continues as it is, for the horror genre, then it's going to be as bleak as an independently-filmed trail in the forest.
Well worth a look, recommended.
In 1940, the residents of Friar, New Hampshire walked up a mountain road. They were not seen again. The film starts with a recreation of part of the Army's subsequent investigation. In 2008, the coordinates of the trail head are declassified. A group bands together to investigate the incident.
The group is well equipped. They bring a six wheeled vehicle of some sort, multiple cameras, a high-quality sextant, GPS, compasses, maps, tents, and all manner of other things.
After the music and the noise starts, things start to go downhill. About the same time, the compasses start to wobble or spin. The GPS gives wildly variable and always false readings. The noise is intermittent and so loud that hands-over-the-ears is not enough to keep it from being debilitating. Their two-way radios become unreliable.
After one of the men kills Erin over a hat, the sanity of the group just drops off a cliff. They cannot agree on a way back, since their travel notes are gibberish. They split into smaller groups. One character jumps to her death. One character implores a woman companion to kill him; she eventually snaps his neck after he tells her how to do it. A man kills himself after filming a good-bye. Early on, their is a scene about the dangers of nightshade. Later a character commits suicide using nightshade.
Does anyone survive? Does anyone figure out the mystery that instigated the trek? Watch for the final seconds after the closing credits; a few images (supposedly) from the Army investigation are shown.
Cinematography: 5/10 Often OK, but has shaky cam now and then.
Sound: 0/10 Huge dynamic range, which is quite irritating. Make that worse than irritating. To hear its meaningless conversations, one needs to turn the sound up. A lot. To avoid breaking the speakers, or getting a visit from the cops, one needs to turn the sound down, down, down. The sound alone renders this film a failure.
Acting: 3/10 I liked Cassidy Freeman's (Smallville) performance fairly well. I cannot say the same for the rest of the cast. The +3 is for Ms Freeman alone.
Screenplay: 0/10 Pointless. Was the original purpose of the expedition achieved? Not even remotely. Did the dead characters gain any enlightenment before death? No. The ending was just one more fall into insanity.
"My turn! I think we don't know what's going on here. We should leave. I'm scared. I think we need a bigger boat."-Walter Myrick (Alex Draper)
No doubt, this eerie little journey will have most poeple scratching their heads, and they'll dismiss it as garbage. Go ahead, take the road and lose your mind.