I feel like there’s some really deep hook to YellowBrickRoad such that if you get it, the movie is amazing and brilliant. On the other hand, it could be an awful lot like the annoying pompous drunk at the bar who goes on and on about some really esoteric topic like, I don’t know, the influence of Kierkegaard’s philosophy on the shaping of the modern Federal Reserve, where you can’t help suspecting that if you knew anything at all about Kierkegaard or the Federal Reserve yourself it would be clear to you that the guy has no idea what he’s talking about.
As I say, there may be some hook in the movie that you really have to get. I did not get that hook.
YellowBrickRoad is, to be quite honest, a movie about a bunch of pointless people dying pointlessly in the service of what might have been a really interesting plot if it hadn’t been largely abandoned halfway through in favor of pointless deaths. Pointless and badly filmed; at one point there’s a very graphic dismemberment scene that looks for all the world like the guy’s dismembering a muppet.
The basic story is this: in 1940, the entire population of a small New Hampshire town got up from the metaphorical dinner table and walked down a path in the woods known as the Yellow Brick Road. Most of them were never seen again, except for the couple hundred who were left to litter the path with their mutilated cadavers. A team of academics in some field or other, intending to write a book on the subject, walk up the path themselves. Soon big band music is blaring at them non-stop out of nowhere, which would be enough to send anyone into a homicidal frenzy, and the team starts randomly offing each other and themselves.
There’s not even any joy to be found in watching their sanity degenerate, because there’s really nothing more to the characterizations than “Random people sent into the woods to die.” Right to the end I had no idea who half the people on the team even were. I have heard that the ending made sense in the filmmakers’ heads, but hell if it seems to have made sense in anyone else’s; it’s more like a non-ending that fits with the rest of the non-film but certainly isn’t any more satisfying for all that.
So what’s the verdict? One star. I will say this for it: the opening sequence is amazing. If the whole movie had been like that, instead of descending into nonsensical indie pretentiousness, it would have gotten a lot more stars. In that sense it’s a lot like Ghost Ship, and no movie should ever put itself in the position of being compared to Ghost Ship in any way. You can get to the end of YellowBrickRoad, but there’s pretty much nothing there when you do and no good scenery along the way.