YellowBrickRoad (2010)

Have you noticed every successive technological leap forward is accompanied by a matching reduction in reliability? My parents won a cheap color TV in a church raffle in 1983. It was still 100% functional when they yard sold it 25 years later. I bought a 40” flatscreen LCD in 2006. The thing cost a small fortune but it looked fucking sweet hanging on the wall. Approximately eleven seconds after the two-year warranty expired, it developed a persistent shadowy smear on the right hand side of the screen. When I called tech support the guy said, “Yep, that’ll happen.” Fucker. Can someone please explain to me how every piece of technology in the world costs less to replace than to repair? How did they build the damn thing in the first place? Are they selling new ones at a loss? Is there a secret government subsidy program for consumer electronics? I MUST KNOW THIS.

Busy images like crowd scenes don’t reveal anything amiss with my TV. If you’re viewing a solid background, it looks like someone wiped their ass on the screen. Aside from those fifteen square inches, though, the thing still works fine. So we ignore it and apologetically explain our TV’s quirky birthmark to friends who come for movie night. After a while you get used to it, we assure them.

Most times, it’s not a big deal. Certainly not worth replacing the TV for. Then you come across a scene like the one in YellowBrickRoad, in which the characters can’t hear each other because it’s too loud. One of them scribbles something on his hand and shows it to his companion, who shakes his head vigorously in apparent shock. And what was that vital message? I have no idea. That’s between them and the poop stain on my screen.

Just a nice little hike. What could possibly go wrong?

The story: In 1940, the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire walked off into the wilderness, never to return. Some were found frozen to death or brutally slain along an unmarked trail, but hundreds more were simply never seen again. 70 years later (coincidentally the same interval as yesterday’s Boogens) a team of researchers sets out on an expedition to rediscover and follow that same path, dubbed Yellow Brick Road because a print of The Wizard of Oz was found spinning in the projector at the local movie theater after the townsfolk vanished.

Biggest letdown: Quite a setup, eh? The idea is so immediately rife with spooky possibilities that the only real letdown is the ending. I can’t go into detail, but it was decidedly unsatisfying given such lofty ambitions. How is it that the movies that actually need sequels are so often the ones that will never get them?

We have chocolate and marshmallows, but no graham crackers. I’m going to have to kill you all.

Why you should watch: No found footage! The research team carries plenty of cameras and sound equipment, which would seem to open the door to cinema verite pretty wide. Yet the directors made the bold choice to keep the camera squarely behind the fourth wall. Avoiding the found footage fad in the current indie horror climate makes the drama feel more immediate, not less.

Some might complain that things go from portentous to batshit insane too suddenly, but there are plenty of warning signs that all is not right with the crew. And looking back I really liked the jarring effect of turning normal off like a light switch. The thing this movie does best is convey the irresistible need to move forward that drives some of the characters, even when they know they’re in over their heads. Sharp, suggestive writing and a quality bunch of actors well versed in their characters’ occupations make it easy to believe you’re tagging along on a professional undertaking. When you accept their credentials from the start, it’s easy to buy into the overwhelming power of their obsession.

Get it together or your can forget about that course credit.

Memorable Moment: There are a number of lovely, trippy and/or horrifying parts, but none of them come close to touching THE moment. If I were giving you directions to it, I might say it comes just shy of the halfway point and you absolutely cannot miss it. Once it happens there is, in every way imaginable, no going back.

Choice quote: “I think we don’t know whats going on here and we should leave. I’m scared. I think we need a bigger boat.”

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3 Responses to “YellowBrickRoad (2010)”

  1. […] YellowBrickRoad – We’re off to see the- WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?! […]

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