I was just saying that although I truly enjoyed THE INKEEPERS, it didn’t really scare me as much as I wanted it to. On the flip side, here is a movie that I didn’t really care for that somehow freaked me out. YELLOW BRICK ROAD sports an an inviting premise; way back in 1940, the entire town of Friar, New Hampshire got it in their heads to abandon their homes and take to a winding trail in the woods. (The assholes even left their pets behind!) They were all later discovered slaughtered or frozen to death with zero explanation. Now, a group of smarty-pants psychologists and the like decide to follow the trail themselves and see what they can find while documenting their journey. Terrible and frustratingly ambiguous things ensue. YELLOW BRICK ROAD is an oddly fascinating movie especially considering that I hated the way it looked, how it was executed and nearly everybody in it. I’d tell it to go climb a tree outright but the damn movie got under my skin even in the face of all my resistance.
I don’t get it. Tacky effects, inconsistent acting, dishwater visuals, moronic behavior, poor and random use of black and white stills, inexplicable wardrobe choices, you name it and it’s present and accounted for and busily agitating me. Still, if you tried to turn YBR off while I was watching it, I would have chopped your arm off. When it finally slunk away after one last dubious image, I realized that remarkably it had left me with a feeling of dread the size of a Rose Bowl float. I was reminded of one of those terribly done reenactment educational films you’d see in Jr. High School about the winter at Valley Forge but laced with grisly f-ed up imagery achieved on a Goth teenager’s laptop. No matter what, the truth remains, it achieved a level of wrongness that made me cringe.
Here are my excuses for being scared by a movie that I found aesthetically appalling; first of all, getting lost in the woods, as I’ve stated before is a real fear of mine. It’s not so much the disorientation that gets to me but the idea that nature itself is an ominous force that is trying to stomp me out that turns my hair white. (This is where most would cite THE BLAIR WITCH but where I, trying to convince you that I read occasionally, cite “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood.) Secondly, in the course of this movie some dum-dums eat poison berries that make them trip their brains out and that idea is a nightmare to me too thanks to GO ASK ALICE and that urban legend about trick or treaters who were given LSD laced candy and are still hallucinating in a mental asylum to this day. Thirdly, this sneaky movie has that SESSION 9-ish vein running through it where you realize that the space between sanity and madness is the length of one thought. I hate that. Lastly, there’s this whole stagnation thing going on where you feel the exhaustion of being in the same place for so long that you forget there was ever any other place. Basically we’re talking about a cinematic K-hole.
I guess I like this movie more than I’m ready to fully admit. I don’t feel like owning it, or seeing it again or hanging a poster of it on my wall and buying the lunch box but it did sufficiently poke my head. On a base level, I still think horror films are like campfire stories and I’m not sure you have to like every sentence the storyteller utters to be taken to the place that you need to go. I’m going to coin my own phrase and call this a “green light bulb movie” in reference to SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT. There’s no rationale why the middle story in that flawed, shabby anthology wigs me out- it just does. I may never use that term again but a “green light bulb” movie is bigger than the sum of its parts. Dissected it looks like nothing but it makes reference to a bigger horror, a horror of indescribable nonsense, of losing your bearings and slipping into a pit where you disinherit yourself completely. I know some people will probably check this one out (it’s on Netflix Streaming) and think, “What are you talking about?” but that’s a big part of what makes a green light bulb movie so unnerving. Frustratingly, not everybody can see it glow. Then again, maybe I’m just creeped out by old-timey forties music.