#308 -- Yellowbrickroad (2010)
Rating: 3 / 5
I had this in my Netflix queue for a long time before I actually watched it. I thought it sounded interesting, but I wasn't sure about it. Then I started reading some reviews, and it seemed like people really liked it, so I checked it out. I'm on the fence about it, and it turns out, so it the horror population as a whole. Some people love it, and some people hate it, while most others just don't get it. I get what it was trying to do; I just don't understand the point.
So, here's the story. Back in the 40's, an entire town wandered into the woods, never to be seen alive again. Some bodies were found, but most of the people seemed to have disappeared. In the present day, a team of professionals ventures deep into the same woods to try and uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance. The start on a trail known as the "Yellow Brick Road," and things go downhill from there, for both the characters and the viewer.
It's definitely an interesting concept, and the obvious nod toward The Wizard of Oz makes it even more so. As these people are in the woods and start to talk about things, they start to come up with some theories. They believe that those people thought that, at the end of this trail, there was some sort of Wizard that would grant their wishes. Mass delusion, or something. There's one other nod toward Oz, where a recently murdered girl is strung up on a post wearing a straw hat. Also, once they reach a certain point into the wilderness, they start hearing old-time music that cannot be explained. They're terrified of it at first, but they grow accustomed to it, and eventually learn to love it. When it disappears at random times (only to return later), they miss it. They also hear other sounds that destroy their ears and their ability to hear anything else. There's also something in those woods that makes them lose their minds and want to murder each other.
Again, it's a very interesting concept, but it fails on one main aspect: it doesn't bring anything together or provide an adequate ending or explanation. It builds up some great tension, as we're sure we're going to discover something great about the people who wandered into the woods all those years ago. We're sure we're going to discover something amazing and creepy about what lurks in those woods, and what drew those people to leave everything behind in search of something unknown. We're drawn to the characters in front of us, as we watch their mental states deteriorate. We're sure that something great is going to happen, but it never does. The way it starts off, it feels like a ghost story. The music the explorers hear in the woods hints that, maybe, the souls of those people are still present in the woods. Or perhaps it was the music that drew those people into the woods, and it is what is leading our team to their destination. The thing is, I'm not sure. The fact that these people started losing their minds and doing terrible things to each other also makes no real sense in the scheme of things. Lunacy can't be what drew those people into the woods back in the 40's, but it could be why they were never seen again.
At the end of things, it feels like there was no real supernatural or mysterious thing going on at all. These people were in the wilderness, worlds away from civilization, and this caused their minds to unravel. That is all. No wizard at the end of the yellow brick road; no supernatural entity bringing these people to an untimely demise. Just a bunch of people, lost in the woods, who go crazy. And that is why it was disappointing for me. It has a great lead-up, with potential for some great things, but it falls short. The music is never explained, nor is the town's mysterious disappearance. In the end, one man reaches a final destination, which is a ghostly movie theater where he is forced to see his dead wife on the big screen. Whoop-de-doo. I feel like Yellowbrickroad could have been a great movie if it had a proper ending with something that made all of the weird occurrences mean something. But in the end, it feels like a documentary about what happens when a group of people are kept away from civilization for a long period of time. Despite its amazing build up, great production values and talented actors, it falls short and fails due to its lackluster ending.