I have 493 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? YellowBrickRoad (2010)
What’s it rated? Rated R for a very strange de-legging, a non-stop barrage of psychological horror and all the goddamn music.
Did people make it? Written and Directed by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton. Acted by Anessa Ramsey, Michael Laurino, Cassidy Freeman, Clark Freeman, Alex Draper, Sam Elmore, Laura Heisler, Tara Giordano and Lee Wilkoff.
What’s it like in one sentence? Session 9 meets the legend of Roanoke by way of The Wizard of Oz.
Why did you watch it? RelaxingDragon and boringtechguy piqued my interest.
What’s it about in one paragraph? In the 1940′s, the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire leaves their homes and gets on a local trail dubbed Yellowbrickroad and disappears into the woods. An Army search team looks for them weeks later and found about half the bodies, but most were butchered to the point of unrecognizability. The only survivor was batshit insane and quickly took his own life. Cut to 70 years later, a team of of researchers (comprised of a park ranger, a photographer, a writer, cartographers and a behavioral psychologist) decide to take a hike on the mysterious trail in order to write a book on the experience. As shit slowly turns to fuck, the group will have to decide whether to continue north along the trail or whether to murderkilldiestabchopmakeaholeandfuckit.
Play or remove from my queue? This one is probably going to divide audiences, but I would play it for sure. It’s flawed in some fairly large ways, but it’s also fascinating and spellbinding, which out draws flawed for me every time. On Netflix, the user reviews seem to mostly be 5 stars or 1 star without much in between, and I think that might be true for a lot of the people sitting down to this. Session 9 is one of my all-time favorite horror films and is an apt comparison to YellowBrickRoad. Both films take pleasure in the journey more than the destination, with the slow burn tension and the minuscule ratcheting up of insanity in all the characters, leaving the audience wondering if there’s any reliable narrators left with which to trust. The problems people had with Session 9 (and with YellowBrickRoad) is that the build didn’t leave them with enough payoff at the end and they felt cheated. I disagree strongly with that assessment of Session 9, as I believe the ending for that film was foreshadowed from the opening frames, but I can see some validity in being somewhat disappointed with the end of YellowBrickRoad, as it feels not so much as a cheat, but as a budgetary compromise leading to an ending more esoteric than satisfying.
The ending and a few low budget gore moments that didn’t quite work aside, YellowBrickRoad is the second best horror film I’ve seen this year (the first being REC2) and is staying with me long after backwoods horror flicks normally do. The film doesn’t fall back on any of the tropes the genre likes to play around with when it’s stuck in the woods, like redneck cannibals or scary animals or some dudes playing the most dangerous game. The danger in this is original and it’s terrifying and through some very potent writing, sound design and editing, I found myself feeling like the experience was just as grueling for me as it was for the characters. Fairly soon after they embark on the trail, they start hearing extremely loud music from the ’40′s, and the way the directors play with the conceit (something that on paper would read as a bit silly) and morph it into something truly chilling is very impressive and will force me to keep an eye on their careers from now on.
It’s a very simple movie with mostly understated performances from a cast of mostly unknown actors. Actually, aside from Cassidy Freeman (Tess Mercer on Smallville) and Anessa Ramsey (the main chick in another overlooked horror classic, The Signal), I hadn’t seen any of these actors before and they all do a pretty great job (although Michael Laurino as the co-head of the expedition is a touch bland). As the blood starts pouring and it becomes less and less likely that any of these travelers are going to make it home again, I actually found myself thinking about the character’s families and whether anyone would come looking for them. I cared, and that’s pretty rare for me with the staggering amount of horror films I watch every year. YellowBrickRoad does a few things wrong and a lot of things right and that’s enough to make me recommend giving this one a shot when you’re in the mood for something a little more psychological than shocking.
Do you have a favorite line? I’m not sure of the exact wording, but when the behavioral psychologist is interviewing one of the characters and trying to gauge her mental state, he asks her what her earliest childhood memory is and she replies with “The trailhead. The moment we first set foot on Yellowbrickroad.” That actually gave me goosebumps.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? During the second week of filming, the cast and crew started experiencing vivid nightmares. It doesn’t surprise me in the least. Also, Bloody Disgusting has their name on the cover of the DVD as if they’re a producer or something, so good on them.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Make Out With Violence (a perfect companion to this film, as it is another original take on an overworked genre), The Resurrected (Christian Shepard directed by Dan O’ Bannon makes me excited), Primal (described as “The Australian Evil Dead“, so I guess I should see it), Phantom Museums (I’ve been meaning to watch this collection of shorts by The Brothers Quay, but Netflix burned me on their last film) and Daydreamer (will watch for Aaron Paul alone).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? I stick by saying Session 9 would be the most similar, thematically. It would make for a very psychologically upsetting double feature.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.0
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 4.0
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? Next week I’ll get into the specific things I didn’t like about the ending and the elements I found to be the most frightening. I hope those of you who haven’t seen it will watch it between now and then and join in the discussion.
Did you watch anything else this week? Ghost Protocol was fun and intense and I also started watching Star Trek chronologically, starting with Enterprise.
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, Red State? I loved that fucking ending so much, with Patrick Fischler telling John Goodman that the reason he ordered the strike on the compound was because “fuck those people.” I am fully on board the “fuck those people” bandwagon when it comes to fundamentalist extremists, so on one hand it was just nice to hear him say it, but when faced with the senseless and horrible death of the innocent life that that attitude wrought, it makes it harder to see things so black and white. When I think of the Tea Party, I instantly see red and imagine a bunch of neo-con, Randian douchnozzles, sharpening their pitchforks to stick anything that doesn’t resemble consumerism and capitalism, while hiding their fear and intolerance in Libertarian rhetoric. I’m sure there are nice Tea Party advocates who joined because they lost a business or because they don’t believe in taxes, but those aren’t the people I imagine. I don’t know that Kevin Smith was thinking about adding any grey areas to Westboro baptist life (because there was no grey in Michael Parks’ psychotic church leader), but he made me add it, involuntarily. But not to the Westboro Baptist Church because I can swear beyond a shadow of a doubt that those racist, homophobic cunts will burn in hell with a throat full of Satan’s black, thorny cock. See how easy that is. You can play at home.
Next Week? Stuck? By the way… Merry Christmas, you lovely Chewers! You make this all worthwhile.