YellowBrickRoad (2010) | Explanation, Recommendations & Spoilers | Film Review
YellowBrickRoad (2010) is an American horror film directed by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton and written by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton. The film stars Michael Laurino, Anessa Ramsey, Alex Draper, Laura Heisler, Sam Elmore, Clark Freeman, Cassidy Freeman and Tara Giordano.
The film begins with an old news broadcast, pictures and audio from an interview, with the explanation that in 1940, the entire population of the town of Friar, New Hampshire left the town after watching the film, The Wizard of Oz (1939) in the town's movie theater. After an extensive search by the U.S. Army, it was discovered that the townspeople followed a trail into the nearby woods.
What the U.S. Army found was strange, unsettling and horrifying. Some of the townspeople were found deceased from various causes; some froze to death, some were dead from homicide, and some from suicide. Others were never found. The strangest part of the town's sudden pilgrimage was that it seemed that they left as soon as they had watched the film, taking no food, water, clothes, weapons, or shelter and even left their pets at home to fend for themselves. It seemed that the only lead the U.S. Army had was that whatever had happened to these people, happened at the movie theater.
After such a horrifying discovery, there seemed to be some hope, however. The U.S. Army found one survivor and immediately interviewed him. Unfortunately, the sole survivor was terrified and the interviewer did not understand what the survivor was trying to tell him. The sole survivor kept asking the interviewer if he could hear something only the survivor could hear and would not or could not explain further.
The mystery of what happened in the town of Friar intrigued people who heard the tale for years to come. Many people tried to get information about what happened and tried to find the trail, to no avail. It seemed that those who lived in the town after 1940 just wanted to forget about what happened.
The film moves forward to present time and we are introduced to Teddy Barnes (Michael Laurino), who has been summoned to an unknown building to retrieve a file on the town. It seems that Teddy is very interested in the mystery of the town and is desperate to get more information about Friar and the location of the trail. After several attempts to get the information, it seems that Teddy has resigned himself to never getting the information and the visit to the unknown building will just be more of the same.
Teddy is surprised, however, when a man appears in a booth at the end of the hallway, with the booth covered in what looks like paint. It is very hard to see the man, but he looks to be much older than Teddy. The mysterious man tells Teddy that he has the file for him and is supposed to apologize for the hassle everyone has caused Teddy, which seems so strange to say that Teddy dismisses it as a joke. Teddy is amazed to discover the file contains everything about the incident and when he looks up at the man in surprise, he sees the man has disappeared, confusing him.
Later, we find Teddy at home with his wife, Melissa Barnes (Anessa Ramsey) and their friend, Walter Myrick (Alex Draper). It turns out, before Teddy received the file, he had resigned himself to never finding out what happened in Friar and took a job outside of the area. Teddy and Melissa invited Walter to their house to say their goodbyes, but before Walter can toast their departure, Teddy surprises both Melissa and Walter with the file. Everyone gets excited and starts talking about how they can finally start the book on Friar they have wanted to write for years. Teddy states that he will not take the job and everyone will focus on the book instead.
We discover that Teddy is an accomplished photographer, Walter is a psychologist who will document the group's behavior throughout the trip, Melissa will co-write the book, and the rest of the group that we have still yet to meet are cartographers, a forest ranger, an intern who will act as their medic, and a local from the town of Friar.
The whole group meet up at a local diner and discuss what each person's role will be and what they will expect to find when walking on the trail. Melissa finds the coordinates for the start of the trail and the coordinates lead them to Friar's movie theater. Confused, they go inside and are mocked by an employee in the front of the movie theater. Looking around, they see another employee behind the snack counter watching them. She gets some popcorn and disappears into the theater behind her and Teddy follows her to talk to her.
When he gets inside the theater, he sits behinds her and asks her about the town and the trail. She tells him she's been to the trail on several occasions, but never went very far past the trail head. She tells Teddy that she would be willing to show him where it is, but she wants to be part of the group. Teddy is hesitant, but finally relents as he sees no other option for finding the trailhead.
The group gets to the trailhead and starts their journey. The rest of the film follows the group as they discover what happened to the townspeople of Friar in 1940 and how their fate relates to that incident.
If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Blair Witch (2016)
The Endless (2017)
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
*Discussion contains spoilers
When the group begins walking on the trail, they seem to get along well and are having fun together. Their personalities seem normal and their reactions are normal when observed by Walter on video. Soon, however, they begin to hear music being broadcasted seemingly from all around them, music that seems to be from the early 1900's. The music is unnerving and begins to affect each of them in different ways.
For some, it makes them agitated, for some it makes them anxious, for some it makes them confused and for others, it makes them very aggressive. Relationships begin to fall apart and the minor problems that each person in the group has becomes magnified and grows as they progress further towards the end of the trail. Teddy becomes more obsessed with finding the mystery behind the disappearances and deaths in 1940 and does not want to turn back to safety, even when it's obvious they are in danger.
I have an explanation for the events of the film and I will explain how I came to this conclusion. I watched the movies Resolution (2012) and its sequel, The Endless (2017). I watched Resolution (2012) when it came out and didn't really understand the ending, and recently watched The Endless (2017) and started to understand that the story had influences from H.P. Lovecraft stories (Lovecraftian horror).
In Lovecraftian horror, people do not control their own destiny and find that their human concerns have no significance; they find that they have an extreme fear of the unknown and can be driven mad by things that are beyond human comprehension.
In The Endless (2017), it is revealed that the two brothers in the film and the rest of the film's characters are trapped in a dimension on Earth that is controlled by a Lovecraftian being. The being controls time and has trapped the people in the film in different time loops, sometimes connecting at the same time and sometimes they are in completely different time loops. This can create odd sounds (like the music in YellowBrickRoad (2010)) when time is distorted by the Lovecraftian being.
The same odd events happen in The Blair Witch series of films. In the first film, they find a house in the woods at night that could not possibly be there, when in present time it was just a foundation to a house. In the second film, they see a young tree on a video in the middle of the same foundation, yet in present time, they see a very mature tree in the same spot. In the third film, they find the same house intact in what seems to be present time, but when walking through it, see light speeding through the boarded up windows, indicating that whatever is controlling the loop they are in has sped up day time so they are always in the dark.
In all of these films that I have discussed, the characters seem to be stuck in some kind of a loop, which is controlled by something they cannot see, confront, or fight. They are helpless and full of fear of the unknown. It also seems that if or when they do see something, it is not something we are also able to see, making it that much more scary.
In YellowBrickRoad (2010), as the group follows the trail, they find themselves very different in personality and behavior than when they first started out. It seems that whatever is controlling the area they have journeyed into is taking delight in torturing them and keeping them from leaving. It seems as if it is enjoying influencing their behavior and wants them to go mad. The constant starting and stopping of the music, sometimes sputtering and stopping like a broken record, the torturous, sometimes deafening music, is just another way to hasten their impeding madness.
As the environment has a different effect on everyone, some people in the group become murderous, some become suicidal and some are just victims, just like in 1940. In the end, everyone dies except for Teddy, who follows the trail to the end and finds himself back at the movie theater. Confused, half-mad and terrified, he goes inside the movie theater only to discover an usher (who sounds a lot like the guy in the very beginning, who gave him the file), who tells him that there are so many endings and leads Teddy into the theater. In the theater, Teddy watches a film with the ghosts of Friar and appears to be laughing and crying at the same time.
I think the ending means that Teddy is actually the sole survivor of the incident in Friar in 1940 and he is in an endless time loop, destined to go back on the trail, have everyone with him die in different, terrible ways and he will always remain obsessed with solving the mystery of the trail.
I also think that in the beginning of the film, the movie Teddy is watching is a version of events in a different time loop that he cannot remember. I think that the usher at the end of the film is the same man who gives him the file in the beginning of film, and that person is also the Lovecraftian being who is in control of the whole time loop. I think that it takes delight in seeing Teddy unaware of the horror about to unfold and also seeing what the loop has done to Teddy by the end of the film. I think at the end in the theater, Teddy finally realizes he has solved the mystery, but is driven mad by the realization that he will suffer in the time loop over and over again endlessly.
In the beginning of the film, the movie theater employee Teddy talks to shows him the projection room above the theater. Teddy sees one of the reels is the original The Wizard of Oz (1939) the townspeople watched. The employee tells him it has been watched so many times that the reel is shredded. If the film came out in 1939 and it was the first time the townspeople watched it, how could it be shredded?
My thoughts are that the townspeople watched a different movie than The Wizard of Oz (1939), that maybe it was a movie that showed the events about to happen and it drove them mad, thus starting the loop. I think that Teddy has been through the loop with different versions of people from town and each time he starts the loop, he watches a film of what's about to happen (or maybe it's a version of what happened in the loop just before), which in turn starts the development of the obsession and madness. It would explain why the reel is shredded after watching it so many times.
To me, this is a version of hell. I know H.P. Lovecraft's work is not supposed to be considered evil because it's supposed to be beings which are beyond human understanding, but there is something hopeless and evil about being stuck in a dimension or time loop controlled by something that delights in keeping a person or persons there without letting them leave, especially if they are influenced or experience harm in any way.
I think this film affected me so much because it made me feel so hopeless, especially when I realized Teddy was destined to lose everyone in his life in horrific ways over and over again. It was especially sad to me that he would start each loop excited and happy, only to have it end horribly every single time. I really liked this movie but it's one that is hard to watch and is extremely heavy.
Have you seen this film? Do you have any plans to watch it? What do you think about it? Do you think it's similar to the films I mentioned above? Please share your thoughts below!