Horror, 96 Minutes, 2010
I did like this – quite a bit actually – but ultimately it collapses under its own weight and that’s a shame. It starts out strong but fragments at the end and wobbles unsteadily between horror movie cliché and attempts at introspective depth.
The premise is promising: 70 years ago the entire population of a small town stopped everything they were doing and walked away into the mountains never to be heard from again. Now a group of young researchers hoping to unravel the mystery heads up the same trail.
It’s briefly shown that the current townspeople are extremely touchy about the subject but we fail to get any depth or conflict from this. It’s a golden opportunity to build on the sense of foreboding and oppressiveness that’s almost completely squandered.
The inevitable “descent-into-madness” phase is well done enough but the movie quickly splits the cast into small units that we’re forced to bounce back-and-forth between. This drains much of the potential conflict from the story. On one level this works as there’s a great “deflation” and a loss of motivation in the characters that’s interesting in and of itself. Apathy, however, is only interesting for a little while.
The end of the movie tries for a “2001: A Space Odyssey” surrealism that I truly think could have worked if left alone but then ruins it with a silly effects-driven attempt at shock. Despite the title and some tantalizing dialog the “Wizard of Oz” references are weak and, sadly, ultimately ignored.
The problem with the movie as a whole is that it continually fails to commit to the ideas it presents. Time and again it drives towards an atmosphere or emotion then veers off, usually into banality. As I said at the start, I did enjoy this, but I have to say it was more for the potential that for the execution.