Even a decade later The Blair Witch Project is continuing to have an impact on our genre. While experiencing another Paranormal Activity is like winning the lottery, there are still a few films that took the verite-style subgenre and delivered a gem (REC, Cloverfield). Then there are those inspired by that style of filmmaking who take things in their own direction. Such the case with Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s YellowBrickRoad, a glossy, well-polished mind-bender that’s been overlooked by pretty much everyone – and that’s a damn shame.
Carrying a Wizard of Oz theme, the film follows an expedition down the “YellowBrickRoad” with an attempt to solve the mystery of the lost citizens of Friar New Hampshire who back in 1940 walked together up a winding mountain trail and into the wilderness leaving behind their clothes, their money, all of their essentials.
A search party dispatched by the U.S. Army eventually discovered the remains of nearly 300 of Friar’s evacuees. Many had frozen to death. Others were cruelly and mysteriously slaughtered. The bodies of the remaining citizens are still unaccounted for.
The story tells that the location and coordinates to the YellowBrickRoad were declassified in 2008, leading to this journey into the unknown.
The film is very similar in tone to The Blair Witch Project as it begins with a local legend that a group of young adults attempt to learn more about. They head deep into the woods where odd and bizarre events begin to occur. The vast different between the two films is that the weirdness in YellowBrickRoad occurs in constant (day and night), and it’s also super glossy (to its own fault).
What’s cool about Yellow is that when sh*t hits the fan, it never lets down; it’s like an assault on the viewer giving nearly no time to breathe. The craziness ranges from psychosis, to murders to unidentifiable sounds (horrible, horrible sounds). What’s so impressive is that everything that happens is believable on some scale, making it all the more engaging.
Speaking of the sounds, the audio design is marvelous. Much like Paranormal Activity, Yellow relies heavily on the audience seeing the film in a theater, or at least with solid surround sound.
Even without a good sound system there’s enough interesting stuff going on to keep the audience captivated. The screenplay is quite logical and the acting can be quite solid at times (especially thanks to The Signal star Anessa Ramsey).
I loved YellowBrickRoad, I really did. I found it engaging, entertaining, fun, creepy and something I’d love to share with my horror-loving friends. Unfortunately, the sign of the times is the glaring problem that keeps this from becoming the next Blair Witch or Paranormal — it looks like a REAL movie. In a shocking twist, the only thing that could have made YellowBrickRoad better is having LESS money and a smaller budget (or at least make it look like so). The HD came used makes everything crisp and clear, and at no point does the viewer feel as though this is real. Even more pereling is the Shining-inspired finale that brings clarity to the mystery while also wrapping everything up in a nice red bow.
In the end, Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton have in fact created something special. They honed in on their filmmaking skills and have delivered a solid genre film that is sure to be quite popular among horror fans. Even with the final product being well-polished, there are still plenty of scares and chills to go around.