This is–apparently–a very divisive movie. Looking up online ratings and reviews, it sure seems like most of the people who watched YellowBrickRoad hated it. But I don’t get that at all; I adore this movie, warts and all.
The story follows a group of people following an infamous path into the wilderness. See, in the 1940’s an entire town put on their fanciest clothes, walked along the trail (dubbed “Yellow Brick Road” after the reel of The Wizard of Oz that was left playing in the local theater), and either disappeared, got horribly killed, or went insane. To paraphrase a quote from the movie Devil’s Pass, “You followed a step-by-step plan that killed a town of people. What did you think was gonna happen?”
Turns out following in the footsteps of the doomed was a bad idea! Strange, old-timey music starts playing, eventually becoming deafening noise. One by one the characters start to go crazy in their own ways: Ms. Cassidy Freeman’s character is filled with dread, coming full circle when her brother (played by real life brother Mr. Clark Freeman) brutally murders her in front of everyone. The intern loses all confidence, eventually jumping off a cliff (an act no one notices or ever addresses). The forestry guy becomes a misanthropic survival nut. And the man leading the expedition is overcome with a need to reach the end, even if it means leaving everyone–including his wife–behind.
Some movies leave the audience with a lot of questions. Sometimes, if I really like those movies, I want to know more. That’s what led me to listening to the commentary track where the filmmakers explain, more or less, what the fuck is going on. Turns out the area is suffused with an evil that enjoys watching people suffer and die. The human manifestation of this evil is the Usher, played by Mr. Lee Wilkof, who in real life took time off from being the Wizard in a production of Wicked to be… well, the Wizard of Oz, more or less. Must be kismet.
But I can see how this would be frustrating for some people. It’s not a traditional horror flick, much more focused on the characters and their very slow descent into madness. But that’s my kind of jam, so I recommend it.
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