20 December 2011

Movies: YellowBrickRoad

YellowBrickRoad (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1398428/

Horror / Psychological Thriller / Mystery

One day back in the 1940s the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire, left everything behind and walked up a winding mountain trail. The U.S. Army was called in to investigate. They followed the trail and recovered some folks that had been slaughtered along the way, recovered others that froze to death further along the trail, and never found the rest of the population. The mysterious event was quietly covered up. New residents of the town don't discuss the events with anyone, however the expanse of wilderness to the north of town is off limits to all including hunters, loggers, developers, etc.
Recently the Army's reports about the incident were declassified, so a writer-couple and their psychologist friend assemble a small team to accompany them to map out the path and try to uncover clues behind the mystery of the town's disappearance. The plan is to write a book about the mystery and what they found while retracing the path. When they arrive at Friar they find out the coordinates for the trail head are wrong, pointing instead at the Rialto theater. No residents will talk with them about it, except for the popcorn chick at the theater. She tells them how her grandfather used to visit the town every couple of weeks back in the 40s around the time the town emptied, and she can guide them to the trail head and give them any information they need that comes from local lore about the incident.

The film has a rather small cast. What is odd is most of the cast looked familiar to me, but when I looked up the cast members I can't recall watching any thing any of them have been in.
Filmed primarily in the woods somewhere. In some ways it reminded me of a low-budget guerrilla-style film project, like "Blair Witch Project" or possibly "Monsters".  The film seemed quite a bit more scripted than "Blair Witch", more like how "TrollHunter" seemed. Thankfully we are observers, we are not part of the cast nor are we 'found footage reassembled'. This frees them up to jump between the subgroups once the main group fractures so we can continue to follow what happens to them.

I thought the film started with a neat kernel of a story, but as the trip along the trail progressed I see-sawed between boredom and dread for the end of the film. Yes, weird unexplainable junk happens along the way to keep things spicy, unexplainable not only to the team on the path but to us viewers. These moments dragged me briefly from "yawn" to "hmm, what's this?" before I settled back into waiting for whatever next happens. As the story progresses toward its conclusion it lands fully in the 'unexplainable' wheelhouse, almost like some sort of weird psychotropic-fueled dream sequence. However my curiosity got the better of me, I had to see it play out. I figured it would probably wind up as one of those 'journey better than the destination' endings.

But, all told, the journey wasn't so grand for me and neither was the ending. Someone mentioned David Lynch in reference to this film, but I don't see it. Sure some of Lynch's stuff may come off as psychotropic-fueled nightmares too, but there's a progression to Lynch's stuff that makes sense in that psychotropic-fueled nightmare world he presents.

Though I wasn't particularly impressed with the film I do have to say that technically the production wasn't terrible. They were able to pull off the 'less is more' story telling to some degree of success, where they don't have to show everything, and your imagination is allowed to fill in the blanks. Thankfully the cast isn't yammering exposition constantly to tell you what just happened in case you missed it. But the imagination gets quite a workout by the time the film finishes. Considering I thought I recognized some of the cast then couldn't track any of them down to anything I've watched, I suppose they did fine for their roles as well.

Probably be worthy SyFy channel fare, even better than some of their productions. Not quite what I was hoping for based on the trailers for the film, not near as terrible as it could have been.  And, now that I think about it, I liked it better than "Paranormal Activity".

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