Undoubtedly, one of the most controversial films of 2011 (note: made in 2010 but released in 2011), merely because of arguments over whether it was good or not. And as the reviews seem to mirror, it is somewhere in between. Imdb gives the film an average 4.6 rating while Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an even 40%. These numbers even seem to define the general reception of the film, in that it lies somewhere between a creepy idea stunted by it’s own crappy execution.
For the most part I enjoyed the filters used by the directors in the cameras, as it gave the natural setting a washed out feel which I felt reflected the general tone that the film was attempting to reach: The idea that in a world being overcome by stimulation our psyches become increasingly faded. This can be seen by the continuing movie-motif which runs rampant throughout the film and the creepy music emanating from nowhere playing from the sky, the ground, the trees, the grass. The fact that the travelers are unable to escape this music suggests they are unable to escape these elements of their lives and goes so far as to indicate that perhaps these people were all “crazy” and “doomed” before they even got on the trail.
Personally, the premise of the film is what makes this film so interesting. The, of course, fake “based on true events” story, aside, this film follows a group of travelers farther and farther into the woods as they increasingly become more and more violent and insane. I can’t argue for the sake of the actors, generally they were not up to par – the twists and turns were more engaging than any of the characters really were. But the idea of nature being a creepy enemy in itself against the travelers was frightening to me! Normally nature is a site of safety and nurture, in this case it is anything but. I suppose what comes to mind is parallels to the Blair Witch Project (1999). I would honestly argue that this film fits right into a similar category: Bunch of travelers + a great mystery + the woods = increasing insanity and increasing fear.
What the two also share in common is a very unsatisfying ending. Specifically for YellowBrickRoad the ending, obviously meant to entice some sort of “wait, what just happened” ending, falls flat and comes off as forced. This is another area where instead of having a serious moment of engagement the audience will snicker at the absurdity. This also includes most of the gore in the film. Again, what was strongest in this film was the intangible and the imagination behind it: stronger than the actual delivery of said ideas. When I say intangible I’m again referring to the music which continuously plays, for example, and the way in which it affects the group. Or the fact that a simple hat can ignite a murder.
To conclude, while this film had some serious promise, it seems that its ideas were bigger than the technical and even sometimes written ability could handle. It had some creepy ideas and some even creepier premises, but on the whole the acting combined with the rushed ending felt cheap and unimpressive. What the film excels at, however, is creating the creepy atmosphere which leaves you with some memorable moments regardless of whether you truly enjoyed the film or not.