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.