Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Yellowbrickroad, a Rare Specimen

People watch horror films for a myriad of reasons. For most folks', the desire to be scared and discover the depths of their fear is that goal. I remember that feeling from when I was little, but as I grew up and into more of a genre fan, the fear faded to a background element, something rarely taken out of the closet and tried on. It's actually kind of humorous that most horror films today are actually just exploitation films with a budget. Here, though, comes something fresh made on a meager budget of half a million dollars that manages to bring suspense and fear in spades.

Yellowbrickroad is the curious story surrounding the small New Hampshire town of Friar. The opening sequence tells the tragic tale of this town, which in 1940 saw all of it's residents follow a hiking trail into the wilderness, through a series of period photographs. It's very evocative of Ken Burns' documentary style. More importantly, it brings the creepy right from the outset; it's unsettling.We're told about an army recon team that was sent in to find the townsfolk, discovering that many had frozen to death but still more of them were murdered brutally. This information and the location of the hiking trail are classified for decades, causing the stories to become myth to become legend. It's declassified in present day, in time for our group of stalwart protagonists to attempt to write book on the subject and dare to venture the same route into the wilderness. I have to admit that beyond the initial setup sequence, the first twenty minutes of the film were a bit slow, as we're introduced to each member of the group.

Let's be fair though, you aren't watching this film to become tenderly attached to a cast of characters. Solely based on the type of movie this is, you have to know, somewhere in the deepest recesses of the lizard part of your brain, that bad things are very likely to happen. Before long, the musical siren call begins it's slow assault on the party's sanity. And my sanity as well. I found myself being bothered by it almost a day later when I tried to go to sleep and that's just downright creepy.

That's the trick here, Yellowbrickroad gets under your skin achingly slowly. The build up is the meat of the film. In this way, it recalls The Shining, very specifically. It isn't as technically sound as Kubrick's take on King's story, but the effect is the same. The tension is there underlying every scene in the film from the halfway point through to the end. Unrelenting, the film doesn't show it all off like the gaudy horror of today, but rather forces the viewer to fill in the blanks. I don't know about you, but being weaned on the tit of 80's horror, my mind fills the blank in pretty graphically. If you're looking for an old school horror fix set to the tempo of today, check out Yellowbrickroad. It releases today on DVD via Bloody Disgusting's Selects label.

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