YellowBrickRoad Ending Explained-Lovecraftian Horrors Hide Behind a Movie Theater Mask
YellowBrickRoad is not the path to salvation but rather a slow burn to Hell in Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s masterpiece of existential dread.
YellowBrickRoad is, first and foremost, a psychologically torturous film. With gloriously abrupt moments of extreme violence punctuated by the monotonous playing of chippy music continuously played at increasingly louder decibels, it is a painful reminder that it’s sometimes better to stay home. There are times you can never go home again. No matter how many times you click your heals.
The entire town of Friar, New Hampshire, disappeared into the woods headed down a lost road called YellowBrickRoad. Only one survivor was ever found, and he was babbling incoherently about hearing strange things. Every other member of the town was gone. Some were dead from the elements, others from shocking acts of violence, and still others were never found. It has become an obsession for Teddy Barnes(Michael Laurino) to locate the lost path and solve the riddle of what happened to the town. The film opens with supposed recovered footage and news stories from 1940 and quickly shifts to Teddy. Shrouded by a dirty window and plastic gloved man turned over documents about the mystery to Teddy, and his fate was sealed.
As an obvious hommage to the infamous Yellow Brick Road from L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz Teddy, like Dorothy, is a bored seeker of truths. He drags two map maker siblings Erin and Daryl played by real siblings Cassidy and Clark Freeman, a longtime friend and psychologist Walter(Alex Draper), his wife Melissa(Anessa Ramsey), field medic and wildlife specialists Liv( and Cy(Sam Elmore) and random local usher at the movie theater they strat from Jill(Tara Giordano) with him. Most are indulgently enthusiastic the way someone would be for any adventure, with only Jill acting interested in the road. Unlike The Wizard of Oz that leaves all major characters save the Wicked Witch intact, Teddy’s group dies either by their own hand or someone else’s.
As with most films that start with this general conceit. The group is young and ambitious, lacking even a modicum of weariness. They begin with more hubris than sense, and the unbridled evil that awaits them takes full advantage. Rural Horror works because there is still something secretive about leaves’ rustling on a windswept mountain or the whisper of whip o’ willows in the breeze. In the tremendous untamed wilderness, ancient powers swirl in the air. For this group, trouble comes for them the moment they forsake each other for the hunt.
YellowBrickRoad can be read in many different ways, and all of them disturbing. As an ecological allegory for the crimes humanity wreaks on Earth daily, it is spot on, and each member of the group, however initially benevolent, has culpability. The 1940s brought terrible war and violence to our world. from the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to France and England’s war-ravaged lands, not to mention Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, there was mass destruction. That destruction nature continues to try to heal from. Headed down a similar path of consumption above conservation, and this film becomes a Rural Horror movie about the dangers of taking Mother Nature for granted. Something unknown lurks in the great wild, mysterious and powerful. It knows us better than ourselves and is older than time. Some things you should not go looking for.
Is there a real Friar, New Hampshire tragedy?
There are a lot of weird stories about the New England wilderness. YellowBrickRoad’s story is not one of them. Everything from witchcraft, demonic possession, devil worship, ghosts, and evil monsters have been attributed to this area. The closest thing that comes to Friar’s legend is the Roanoke Island colony’s disappearance in 1587 and the town of Dudleytown, Connecticut, where something systemic caused the entire town to move away. The town is still considered cursed and is barricaded and is nearly impossible to climb to now. The legend of Frair, NH, along with the town itself, is absolutely false.
What do the character deaths tell us about their path?
In YellowBrickRoad there is no escape, even in death. Even for those who die on the road, the ending heavily implied they do not find peace. Those who go looking down the Yellow Brick Road are doomed to a hellscape of escalating terror forever. We only see the first of their pain, though. Erin is the first to die in the only truly brutal act of violence. All of the other deaths are relatively tame compared to Erin’s death.
She and her brother fight over a piece of instrumentation and an old hat, and Erin’s brother Daryl chases her down, beats her, slices her face with a sharp rock, and rips her leg off with his bare hands. The siblings, although outwardly friendly, obviously suffer from competition issues. Erin is quick to point out at the introductory meeting that they “both” make maps, and the two jabs at each other like all siblings do, but there is an edge to their exchanges. The path recognizes it and encourages Daryl to end the conflict in a very final way.
Jill commits suicide by walking off a cliff after the group gets angry with her for eating their remaining food supply. The path knows she feels like an outsider and evidently recognizes a selfish fear in her that can be exploited, thus devouring the group’s food and suicide. Cy is next to go and one of two characters that could be argued to be more in control of their faculties. After becoming concerned, he was increasingly homicidal. He runs away with Liv and asks her to tie him up and break his neck. The path does worm its way into his head by encouraging a little lite drug use, but he ultimately can defeat the more negative feelings.
Walter is the second character to thwart the path to some degree. He slits his own wrists after leaving a heartfelt message for Melissa, who he has always loved. The music drove him mad. Instead of killing Melissa or someone else, he went out on his own terms before everything about himself was lost. Darryl claims a second life by stabbing Melissa, who wanted most in the world to be with Teddy. When he left her, she clung to hope that they would independently be saved and reunited. She is dragged into the woods by a gloved hand. Daryl finally gets his when Liv stabs him to death. He had violent tendencies, and the path encouraged those.
After Liv stabs him, she overdoses on Nightshade. As the only member of the town itself, she could easily be construed as just a misguided townie, or because she worked in the theater that is so instrumental to the story, she could be an extension of the Eldritch monster. She is the catalyst to keep the group headed down the path and towards death. One way or another, she makes it happen. That only leaves Teddy, who many could argue is in purgatory. He is forced to watch his loved ones in Hell in perpetuity. Or the theater is Hell, and he is already dead.
The theater is the Eldridge Terror.
The movie theater marks the place where the townsfolk began their journey. The entire group enters but does not believe this could be the beginning of the infamous road. In reality, it is both the beginning and the end. Everything that happens after that point is a slow-motion slide into insanity if you believe they ever left the theater at all. The film showing at the theater when our group arrives is Nova and coming soon is the Great Game. Oddly Nova is a film that was released well after the 2011 release date of YellowBrickRoad. The Great Game was first released in 1953.
The gloved hand at the end.
The pristine white-gloved hand that grabs Melissa’s body matches the movie theater’s uniform in the theater at the end of YellowBrickRoad. He is the public image of the Eldridge Terror. The Lovecraftian monster, who is so omniscient and omnipotent. To know him is to be driven mad. Teddy is the lone survivor(if you can call him that) of the trek because he was the only one searching for the answer. What he finds, however, is not a wizard who can grant wishes but a beast who exploits weaknesses. Melissa is dragged into Teddy’s movie because it is the worst thing he could imagine. This is his Hell, and he will watch it forever.
That insane ending.
The document clerk, who is also the usher of the theater at the end, apologizes to Teddy and his wife and tells him to enjoy his picture show. Teddy ignores the weird comment, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. He isn’t in a theater and doesn’t even know about one at that time. Why tell him to enjoy his show? Teddy is pulled at the moment he refused to give up his search for the road the townsfolk took.
The ending of YellowBrickRoad could be taken in two ways. Either Teddy has been stuck in the theater from the beginning, and the other group members are more a hellish nightmare to torture Teddy, which is oddly the more optimistic option, or he pulled everyone into this terrible place where they are all stuck tormented for eternity. The ghosts which flash just for a second at the end in the theater are a page straight out of The Shining. Jack appears in a photo of the Overlook that he couldn’t possibly be in. Teddy sits alongside Friar’s ghosts. Those are the 157 people who were never found. Most died along the way but the few that make it to the Emerald City find a nightmare they can’t wake from.
Anyone who goes looking for the road will end up there haunted by their decisions. YellowBrickRoad has a nihilistic ending, to be sure. It’s a reminder to appreciate what you have and avoid obsessions, especially those with creepy legends attached.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.