The Scariest Movie Not Found in the Horror Section
It’s Hallowe’en. You want to watch a scary movie so you head down to the video library and mosey on over to the horror section. Sadly, everyone who got out of bed before noon beat you to the punch and rented all the good ones. Now what? Well, not every scary movie is a horror movie – take yourself over to the childrens section and pick up this nightmare inducing flick…
Yep, Disney’s sequel to the classic Wizard of Oz. Whilst the 1985 Return to Oz is certainly intended for the younger viewers it received criticism at the time of release for being ‘intense’, ‘dark’ and ‘terrifying’, all suitable labels. This isn’t scary for a kids film…this is just plain fucked up. Let’s take a look at why.
Viewers rejoin Dorothy six months after he return to Kansas where she is moody and kinda emo – making a young Fairuza Balk the perfect casting choice. Needless to say her depressing mood and claims that she’s been to the magical land of Oz starts to concern her wholesome family of farmers. The answer? Electro-shock therapy!
Seriously. They take her to see some quack whose plan is to electrocute the shit out of the young girl we all sang along with as kids. We haven’t gotten to Oz yet, and things have already taken a turn for the disturbing. During the whole ‘running currents of electricity through an innocent young girls head using antiquated machinery’ scene (below) the hospital suffers a blackout. Dorothy attempts to escape with a strange blonde girl who tells her about the failed treatments that have left the patients rendered insane and are kept locked in the basement. Wait…isn’t this a Disney film?! The doctor keeps his failed electroshocked experiments locked in the basement, what the fuck kind of Disney film is this?!
Whilst being chased by the creepy nurse from the above video, the two girls fall into the river where Dorothy’s new companion promptly drowns, just in case any children were left with any delusions about this movie being a bright and cheerful musical featuring talking animals. Anyway, Dorothy ends up back in Oz somehow. But this isn’t the Oz we remember – it’s undergone a slight apocalypse. The yellow brick road has been dug up and the buildings are in ruins with messages scrawled about the place warning Dorothy to “beware of the Wheelers”. Plus everyone Dorothy knew has been turned to stone. And just to make things even more disturbing, her pet chicken now talks.
Then the Wheelers turn up. Are you a fan of clowns? Well, these guys are kinda like clowns – if someone had hacked off their hands and feet and replaced them with wheels. So Dorothy and that talking bloody chicken get chased down by evil clowns with wheels grafted onto their limbs.
Then they meet a strange tin wind-up man who talks in a creepy, steady voice and requires Dorothy to constantly rewind him. After a big of exposition they go and see the witch named Mombi, who imprisons them. Turns out that Mombi has quite a collection going on – of girls heads. She…collects…girls…heads. Dorothy sees the collection of heads kept in cabinets. This crap would be extreme in a movie about a serial killer, and they put it in a kids movie! Just in case you weren’t creeped out enough – they’re alive! There’s a scene where they all wake up and start screaming! So why does Mombi have a stash of extra heads? Because she wears them! Not Buffalo Bill style, but by taking her head off and swapping them! Seriously! She keep Dorothy locked up because she wants to harvest HER head as well! At no point during the production of this scene did no-one look at each other and say “hang on…this might go down well…”? Maybe they could’ve said it when Dorothy finds the severed original head stuck in a cupboard like it’s nothing?
By the way, whilst locked up by Mombi Dorothy meets Jack-O-Lantern, a man made out of a pumpkin and a bunch of sticks whom the witch brought to life with a magic powder. This character has the potential not to completely freak out the little kiddies, but then he goes and starts calling Dorothy his ‘Mummy’, which raises a whole bunch of other issues. In order to escape the witch, they cobble together a couple of couches with a moose head and bring it to life to fly them to safety. A traumatized little girl, a man made out of a pumpkin, and talking chicken and a steampunk robot riding a couch with a talking mooses head (named ‘The Gump’) through the sky…it’s amazing that this isn’t anime.
The director felt this wasn’t horrific enough and decided that random parts should start dropping of The Gump mid-flight. They wind up face-to-face with the Nome King, the dude who has taken control of Oz and turned it into a crap-pile, something he somehow managed using Dorothy’s ruby slippers. The Nome King has trapped the Scarecrow in an ornament and now Dorothy and her friends must enter his trophy room and guess which piece he trapped in. If they fail they will also be trapped in an ornament. Forever. One by one The Gump, Jack and Tik-Tok all get turned into various baubles, putting quite a bit of pressure on Dorothy. Even when she does save the day, the Nome King transforms into a giant monster and decides to eat them one by one while they get hassled by his creepy minions. None of them are quite as freaky looking as the dead-eyed Scarecrow though…played by some dude named Justin Case.
You thought incinerator scene in Toy Story 3 was a bit severe. Look at that bloody picture?! You even get to see it from Jack’s point of view as he stared down the monsters throat and the molten filled pit below. Just as they’re all shit out of luck, the damned chicken lays an egg in his mouth, and he has allergies so he slowly crumbles into himself. Watch out for the close-up where his eyes dry up.
So they save the day and restore Oz back to normal. Even the drowned girl turns out to be OK, having really just transported back to Oz. Everyone lives happily ever after. By the way, whatever happened to the electroshock happy doctor? Oh…he was burned alive.
Now I’ll rewatch Insidious to calm my nerves.