US (dir. Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton)
Cast: Cassidy Freeman, Anessa Ramsey and Laura Heisler
Synopsis: 1940: the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire walked up a winding mountain trail, leaving everything behind. 2008: the first official expedition into the wilderness attempts to solve the mystery of the lost citizens of Friar.
Review: “YellowBrickRoad” is a dark, bleak, existential horror film of the David Lynchian variety. It shares much in common with the similarly themed “Blair Witch Project”, but it does not take the found footage approach – though I’m sure that idea was knocked around a few times before it was (thankfully) decided against. The pacing is maddeningly reserved. Long stretches of time in which there is little to no action precede instances of extreme, graphic and unexpected violence. Though the cast is mainly composed of relative unknowns who count this film as their big screen debut, each and every performance is quite remarkable for a group of actors who have previously only played bit-part television roles. Best of all, no one stoops so low as to deliver the cliched “we’re not in Kansas anymore” line and it is mercifully absent from all the movie posters I’ve seen for this film.
If you’re not one for hallucinogenic, off-the-rails type endings, this particular film may not be for you. Despite delivering an exceptionally intriguing back story of a town whose inhabitants followed a trail out of town and simply disappeared in the 1940s, nothing close to a resolution is ever provided. After the team of investigators, bent on creating a documentary about the mysterious “Yellowbrickroad”, begin encountering bizarre events on their journey following said route, the movie delves into acoustic and visual assaults on the audience followed by an unsatisfactory decent into surrealism that raises more questions than it cares to provide answers for. In fact, nothing even close to an ending is even given. Had there been a more coherent finale, perhaps the film would have left me more satisfied. However, with no firm conclusion to speak of, there’s not much that can be said, or even critiqued, in regards to the ending. This perhaps might be one of the few instances where an abrupt ending would have sufficed in lieu of an overly artsy and underwhelming conclusion.
Despite the ending, this atmospheric and unsettling film provides a great deal of well acted horrific moments and even some unexpected humour. It is a refreshing escape from the many movies that involve the fear of some “thing” that is palpable, for in this movie the thing to be feared is not only impalpable but raises serious questions as to whether it even exists or not. As unsatisfying as it is to not come away from “YellowBrickRoad” with all the answers that you will no doubt maddeningly search for throughout the film, one must remember that sometimes the best mysteries are better left unsolved. As David Lynch put it, “The more unknowable the mystery is, the more beautiful it is.” To in the end know all the mysteries that shroud the YellowBrickRoad, one may not help but feel incredibly let down, regardless of the answers, which is why I think leaving the ending so vague and disturbing is the best option. Or perhaps the filmmakers’ intent was in fact to not only drive the characters mad, but the audience as well.