Every horror movie gives the audience a set of questions. Who killed so-and-so? With what? And why? It’s like a twisted game of Clue. Throughout a lot of horror films, new questions will crop up and most, if not all, get answered. Some questions don’t but it’s usually because the answer isn’t necessary to the overall plot or because it’s a setup for a sequel. Bottom line, viewers typically leave the film with less questions than they entered. Not the case with the 2010 independent horror YellowBrickRoad. Set in the woods of New Hampshire, boasting a cast of people who probably haven’t acted much before and containing a slew of Wizard of Oz references, this horror film is one of the strangest I’ve ever seen and I’m still not sure what the hell happened.
YellowBrickRoad is about a group of people who follow a trail in New Hampshire. There’s a couple authors, mapmakers, a park ranger and a few others. This trail, dubbed the yellow brick road for reasons I’m not sure of, is a town mystery. Decades ago the entire town got up, dressed and headed out on this trail never to return. Most of the bodies were never recovered and no one knows what happened to the people. Determined to figure out what’s going on with this trail, the present-day group heads out with their cameras and their compasses. The first half of the film is pretty boring, save for this creepy vibe the movie creates very successfully. The viewer definitely feels like something’s awry and the suspense is subtle, but still present.
Eventually, the group comes upon a clearing filled with the sound of loud music. They have no idea where it’s coming from, but it never stops and seems to make the travelers go crazy.
This film excels at its ability to creep out the audience and I’m a huge fan of psychological horrors. There are no badass serial killers in this movie. It’s just a good, old-fashioned gone crazy kind of horror. I think. The problem with the movie is it tosses in so many cryptic Wizard of Oz references you get caught up in trying to figure that out and distracted from everything else. Also, the transition between nothing happening and shit going down is like flipping a light switch, which normally works in horror but not really when you don’t explain it at all. Suddenly people are going crazy, but the audience has no clue why. Is it dehydration? Is it the music? Is it ghosts of travelers past? Is it the freaking Tin Man? No one knows. The movie is certainly creepy and weird, but it’s too confusing and unexplainable to be scary. A few tweaks in the plot development and I think this movie could have gone in a much better direction.
YellowBrickRoad gets points for being weird as shit and taking a treasured American tale (The Wizard of Oz) and creeping it up a bit. But what is this movie even about? It is possible to make people afraid of something they never see or don’t understand, but this movie doesn’t build to that. It just tosses in a bunch of what the hell moments and expects the audience to follow. Weird doesn’t necessarily equal scary. This movie is no match for the other supernatural beings in horror, mostly because they’ll be too busy trying to figure out what it is to be afraid.
If you liked YellowBrickRoad, you might also like The Evil Dead, The Cabin in the Woods and Sinister.