I remember the lyrics from that song in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz: "Follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road…" But I found myself mostly unable to do just that as I watched the new (nearly) direct-to-disk horror movie YellowBrickRoad. I was lost more than once, and unfortunately it wasn't due to complexity… it was due to my own inattention as yet another (kind of) found-footage flick unfurled.
The Blair Witch meets the Great and Powerful Oz as you might expect, but the lead up follows a pack of scholarly backpackers on their way to Friar, New Hampshire, to investigate the disappearance of an entire town (this happened in the Fall of 1940 but our action takes place in present day in all it gadgetry and gory glory).
Teddy (Michael Laurino) is the curious George who unknowingly guides the group to their doom — first is his wife, Melissa (Anessa Ramsey), then psychologist Walter (Alex Draper), geographers Daryl and Erin (Clark Freeman, Cassidy Freeman), ranger Cy (Sam Elmore), intern Jill (Tara Giordano) and finally local historian Liv (Laura Heisler).
Pretty early on, peculiar things begin to happen. Walter leads the group into the fray by doing psychological tests with each of them on-camera. They reveal their deepest and darkest, which of course tempts the fates and calls in their personal demons. Soon the cameras start to act up, the walkies don't work, the GPS system goes way astray, and the blood flows as one-by-one the group begins to disintegrate… and dismember. As if possessed by the wicked souls of the wayward missing townsfolk, the search party's number dwindles at the hands of their own — and, yes, it's all caught on camera.
While YellowBrickRoad isn't a bad movie, it's a movie that has no overt reason for being. There's nothing artistic about it. There's nothing innovative about it. There's nothing especially scary about it. However, it works on some levels. It is reasonably suspenseful at first and co-writer/directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton know how to convey shock and horror (the death scenes are quite good, made all the more unsettling after the characters have been allowed to develop). There's some haunting use of 40s style music and some unsettling editing techniques which evoke an essence of unreality and Oz-like surreality, but the cinematography, color and composition aren't quite up to the ambition of the project. After awhile even the characterizations cease to matter.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson