June 12, 2011

Review: Yellowbrickroad (2011)

Click your heels together three times and wish for another movie."

I must be missing something here, because everybody who has written a review about this movie so far seems to think this movie was pretty damned good.

I remember seeing the trailer and reading various things about the plot of Yellowbrickroad last year, and being extremely geeked to get a chance, any chance, to see it. The idea of a group of filmmakers willing to go down the "Yellow Brick Road" to find out what happened to an entire town that disappeared (ala the colony at Roanoke), sounded fantastic. The movie, as it turns out, was not as fantastic as its premise.

This is an actual picture of one of us watching this movie.
Many reviewers have called this movie "a slow burn" which I don't agree with, mainly because there is no burn. It's slow, yes. No burn though. It felt uneven and directionless, like they had no idea where to go with their own awesome premise and set-up. From the advance buzz I read about YBR, I was expecting a tense, atmospheric creeper, and to be totally honest, aside from one or two scenes, there wasn't much creepiness in this movie at all.

There was a lot of this, though.
The acting was decent, though some of the characters were a bit annoying at times, but if felt as if I was watching a bunch of actors pretending to go insane rather than characters losing their grips on reality. Some of it was even goofy. The part in which a girl just walks of a cliff made me giggle; they must have sped up the film during her fall, because it was so fast that I couldn't help but laugh and say "what?!?" Then again the fact that the characters just kinda stood around and watch a guy bash a chicks leg off with a rock -and did nothing- was nearly laughable as well. Like how long does it take to bash through someone's leg with a rock? A while, right? And no one ran over to stop him until he had removed the leg?

There's also a rather jarring sequence about midway through the movie that grated on my nerves. Music loudly flared on and off while they cast stumbled around like the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise during a Klingon attack, and I'm talking 70's William Shatner-style here... it would have been funny, if it hadn't been so horribly annoying. It felt like the scene went on and on too, so much so that it elicited a cheer from us when it finally ended.

Yeah, that was pretty much our reaction.
I'll give the movie credit for a few things, such as the sound mix/editing. The filmmakers made some bold moves involving sound in this one, to the point where it almost became its own character in a way. Aside from the majorly annoying "on/off scene," the sound throughout the movie was used to great effect. There's also a scene where a guy is hiding in a little cave which was pretty good too.

There are some good things at work here, mainly sound, location and premise, but they're just never really used to any good effect, and that's the real problem. The director and writer never really make us feel dread or any sort of impending doom for the characters as they make their way further and further down the road, towards whatever waits at its end. I really just don't get it.

She's so good on Longmire that we're just going to forget she was ever in this movie.
The movie was slow, uneventful, and tediously frustrating. Walk, talk, sleep, act odd, repeat. And there was nothing even close to a payoff at the end. Oh yeah, we didn't mention the ending, did we? I won't spoil anything by going into any sort of detail, but I will say that Horror filmmakers need to stop being afraid to conceive and deliver actual endings for their films. Enough with the twist and/or complete ambiguity bullshit, let's have a little bit of resolution, or at the very least, some sort of explanation at the end of these 90 minute journeys that we're asked to go on.

Even if there's no "payoff" to be had at their end, how about at least make the rest of the movie gripping and absorbing? I kept waiting to tense up, and feel some sort of permeating doom creep into my bones, but that moment never came. 1940's music and melodramatic over-acing are bad enough, but when they're the centerpiece of a movie and are counted on to raise its level of tension/atmosphere with absolutely nothing else to help them, it's a tough sell. At least for us it is.

At least this yellow brick road led somewhere...
Yellowbrickroad is not an awful movie, it just really drops the ball in the most important areas, which makes it awful enough to us.

Like I said earlier, it seems as if a lot of Horror sites out there think that this movie is some sort of uber-effective triumph of Independent Horror Cinema. Aside from the ones that usually seem to be shills for certain movies/filmmakers, maybe they saw a completely different cut than we did? We really wanted to love this movie, but if we sat here and said it was lovable, we'd be lying.

*And before some jerk-off leaves us a clever comment like "You just don't appreciate the slow burn" or "You need everything spoon-fed to you!," please know that I loved the TV show Rubicon. If there's anything that spoon feeds less, or that burns slower than that, I have yet to see it. That show got cancelled because "nothing really ever happened" on it, and I still thought it was brilliant. So no, we in no way prefer style over substance, and in fact we will take substance every time. This movie just fell short. 


Anessa Ramsey and Cassidy Freeman are in this.


  1. In life it is believed that there are more questions than answers.One such answerless question would be what the hell is this film about??
    I thought some of the cinematography was good and the music and sound editing were pretty cool,however it doesn't make the film.
    The only thing I can think of is that the director/writer wanted to experiment with an idea and run with it.
    ah well,maybe the next one will make more sense.

  2. i totally agree i just finished watching and i'm just confussed,i have know idea what they were trying to acomplish,it was just bizzare.

  3. I seriously enjoyed reading your review. More than the movie, in fact. And I've written something myself in a different review about filmmakers taking the easy way out and just not having an ending. It's a cop out. Thank you for breaking it down so eloquently and if you happen to have some sort of explanation for this one, I'm still looking...

  4. I wish I knew, Justine.

    I think it comes down to people trying to be clever and creative, rather than making a clever and creative movie.

    I also think that a lot of filmmakers have no clue how to end a movie, and so they just leave it "open to interpretation."

    1. Um, IDK, it seemed pretty obvious to me. The guy in the beginning behind the glass that gave them the papers they needed was the evil guy at the end. Basically it was a big trap to lure people there to feed off them.
      This was way more sci/fi than it was horror, IMO.
      You are right about there not being a 'burn', but I disagree about there being
      no dread. The people slowly went insane, and I think it was more than the music, it was them getting closer to the end of the 'road', which was likely some entity that lives in the woods and feeds off the lifeforce of people.

  5. he's right. No payoff whatsoever. There's no " well... It made sense if you watched carefully, " or " it was obscure, but there" No there was NOTHING. NO EXPLANATION AT ALL! NOTHING!

  6. I thought this movie was interesting. Lacked in certain areas, but I could see how great it could've been. I love to see horror movies . deviate from the constant hack and slash. Like blair witch project, just without a first person camera. Plus slowly being tortured into insanity by that music is kind of scary thought

  7. Yeah, Anon, I do have to say that Yellowbrickroad was at least different. The premise had us excited since the first time we heard about it, it's just that the movie really didn't do much for the premise at all.

  8. It was an okay movie. Of course once it ended I couldn't help wonder what it was actually supposed to be about

  9. It was a great concept movie with some great ideas but ultimately unsuccessful in being unable to completely follow through on those ideas.
    As someone who loves ambiguous endings I don't mind endings like the one in YBR but after several viewings the ending smacks more of "lazy" than ingenious.
    I'm glad I watched this film, but I think it would have been a more satisfying view had the films creators included fuller realizations and a bit more specificity
    In it's ending. Nice first effort ,I guess.

  10. Just completed viewing this film and the horror of it is I'll never get those 99 minuets back again. I could have silently watched paint dry and had more fun. I'm a fan of most Horror genres, especially cosmic horror, but this movie just left me cold. I guess the true horror to be found in this movie is the fact that a beautiful idea, great set up and striking scenery were wasted.