Directed by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton
Distributed by Bloody Disgusting Selects
One of the many lessons I’ve learned over the years from being a horror fan is that nothing good can come from a trip into the woods, especially when said woods may or may not be responsible for the disappearance of an entire town. To me, that just seems like it’s got ‘bad idea’ written all over it. But, as horror fans, we all know that if everyone in the world had that kind of reasoning and everyone played it safe, we wouldn’t have horror movies at all. So it’s that longing for the truth about the unknown that drives the events of indie horror flick YellowBrickRoad, which was directed by up-and-coming directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton.
At the start of YellowBrickRoad we learn a few things about the mysterious small town in New Hampshire named Friar. Back in 1940 the entire population of the small community walked up a mountain trail into the woods and simply disappeared. Some time later a search team went looking for the residents of Friar but could only recover about half the bodies and one survivor who was found on the brink of madness and unable to reiterate what he experienced while lost in the woods. All of this nicely sets up the events that follow.
At the beginning of the flick we are introduced to Teddy Barnes (Laurino), a historical researcher hell-bent on finding the original trail to get some answers as to what happened to the residents of Friar some 70 years prior. Barnes manages to assemble a team of explorers including his wife, Melissa (Ramsey), and his best friend and psychologist Walter (Draper), who is tagging along to document the mental stability of the team as they embark on their arduous journey into the unknown.
At first things are business as usual in YellowBrickRoad. The team comes together and exchanges the usual back and forth banter of everyone getting to know each other, and the group seems in high spirits as they set off to find the mythical trail. But when they arrive in Friar, it’s clear to everyone that the townsfolk living there now are doing their best to bury the past, except for one young woman named Jill who eagerly agrees to help the team locate the trail and shed some light on what would make an entire town’s population walk off into the woods without any regard for the lives they were leaving behind.
During the second act of YellowBrickRoad is when things begin to get creepy as the characters are pushed through the gauntlet by the strenuous nature of the expedition. Suddenly compasses fail to work, no one can get a clear reading on the trail coordinates even though they have the best equipment available, and we see that the members of the expedition are beginning to lose their sense of reality through Walter’s interviews. But that’s not even half of it - suddenly the woods are filled with creepy music circa the 1940’s, and that’s when we can literally see the cast of YellowBrickRoad breaking down right in front of our very eyes.
To say any more about the madness that unfolds in the last act of YellowBrickRoad would be a great disservice to anyone who wants to see the flick, but what I can say is that both Holland and Mitton are to be commended for crafting an unnerving and haunting story without relying on needless jump scares or an over-abundance of gore. The horror here is subtle and effective, and both filmmakers clearly show that they know how to get deep into the psyche of their viewers. The most terrifying part of YellowBrickRoad is that there are no answers, but I didn't mind because for me it wasn’t about what happened 70 years ago - it was about what's happening now. It’s definitely the kind of movie that gets stuck in your head for days while you try to wrap your head around this haunting descent into the depths of insanity.
YellowBrickRoad is a movie that we’ve been following now for almost two years so anticipation was high. With hints of The Shining, The Blair Witch Project, The Wizard of Oz and even the television series “Lost,” I was far from disappointed with the efforts of Holland, Mitton and their entire cast of talented players in this film. It’s rare these days to see a refreshing approach to backwoods horror, but YellowBrickRoad once again proves that there are still original and terrifying stories lurking in nature. Holland and Mitton have demonstrated that they’re talented storytellers on the rise in the horror genre, and we should all eagerly await their next genre offering.
3 1/2 out of 5
1 out of 5