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Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 167: YellowBrickRoad

Oh, it has an ending...

I don't like The Blair Witch Project. I had very little interest in it when it came out. Why I applaud their ability to get a huge buzz and “go viral” before going viral meant having lots of people watch a Youtube video of something getting hit in the balls, it just didn't appeal. I didn't understand what the big deal was about people getting lost in the woods and “found footage”. Come on, they're not going to show a movie in theaters across the country if people actually died. When the movie came to cable, I finally watched it and all my feelings towards the movie were confirmed. It was boring, rudderless, and annoying. By the end, I was cheering for the witch to kill them before someone screamed about that goddamn map again. Perhaps if the movie had a bigger budget, a deeper story and, you know, actors, maybe I would have liked it. Today's review explores just that; Does a bigger budget, story, and proper acting make a “lost in the woods” movie better?

YellowBrickRoad is a 2010 horror movie starring Michael Laurino as Teddy Barnes and Anessa Ramsey (The Signal, Footloose) as his wife Melissa. In the 1940's, the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire left town and walked up a winding trail leading into the woods. They left everything behind and were never found, leaving one survivor who was left a rambling, incoherent madman. Teddy and Anessa decide to find the trail in hopes of discovering new evidence and shedding light on what happened to the town. They are joined by their friend and colleague Walter, mappers Erin and her brother Daryl Luger, Jill the intern, and Cy Banbridge, a local forester. Their information about the trail falsely leads them to a movie theater, where a worker named Liv agrees to bring them to the trail if they let her come along. Liv takes them to the trail, marked by a rock with “Yellow Brick Road” written on it. The trip starts off well enough as the group travels deep into the woods. Walter is videotaping each crew member to ensure they still have their mental faculties. As the trip progresses, they begin to hear big band music blaring from an unknown source. At first, the group enjoys it, but it begins to wear on them. The group begins to break down and things come to a head when Daryl brutally murders his sister Erin all because she took a hat that he found. Death follows the group along with the inexplicable music. Will they reach the end of the trail and what will be waiting for them?

This would be considered an "action" shot

It's easy to compare YellowBrickRoad with The Blair Witch Project, but YBR has an interesting back story, better acting, and some creative ideas. The audience is interested in seeing what happens because the initial story of the townspeople disappearing is legitimately interesting. The first half of the movie holds our attention because of this, but unfortunately it's not enough to keep us interested. The movie stretches on for far too long with very little happening. Sure there are a few scenes of violence, but any true horror fan won't bat an eye at the killings or gore. The acting is good considering nothing really happens for most of the movie. In The Blair Witch Project, I was cheering for the witch to kill the annoying characters. In YellowBrickRoad, I was cheering for something to happen.

My biggest issue with the movie (other than being incredibly boring) is the ending. YellowBrickRoad was clearly made on the cheap and emphasizes imagination over action. That only goes so far and isn't enough to sustain an entire movie, especially when the payoff is so bad. They tried so hard to be clever and edgy and failed miserably. It's like they watched one too many episodes of Twin Peaks and said “Hey, the audience has suffered through this, let's totally fuck them over with an ending that makes no sense and will mess with their minds!” While the usage of random music playing is interesting and the weak connections to Wizard of Oz keep us on our toes, there's no real payoff to any of it. It was all a misdirection to keep the audience from walking out of the theater or watching something else.

Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel

Despite having a bigger budget, a more complex story, and better acting, YellowBrickRoad is just another “lost in the woods” movie. The acting is good and the scenery is very nice to look at. The movie has a few good ideas and for the first half, I was legitimately interested in what was going to happen. The movie fell apart when it was apparent that nothing of note was going to occur and I was even going to get some violence to keep me entertained. It became a chore to watch and the ending was infuriatingly bad. It didn't come out of left field, it came out of another park. I feel bad for anyone that paid money to see this movie. YellowBrickRoad is simply not worth your time.


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