By: Patrick Walsh (original publish date: October 13, 2007)
(With the Cine-staff off on a late-July mini-vacation, we thought it'd be fun to bring you some of our favorite pieces from years past. Enjoy!)
As I pointed out in my Poltergeist review, I didn't watch much horror as a boy. That's probably a good thing, as even the non-horror flicks I enjoyed often scared the bejesus out of me. You kids today don't know how lucky you have it with your wussy Shreks and your lamewad Pikachus! Children of the 1980s are still in therapy over what Hollywood deemed "family films" back then. The following non-horror mind-screws should prove my point.
Return to Oz (1985)
In high school, I brought Return to Oz to a Halloween movie marathon. I hadn't seen it since I was a kid. Everyone scoffed. "A Wizard of Oz sequel? That's supposed to scare us?" I didn't hear a lot of mockery after the movie started. In fact, nobody said a word until about halfway through, when a friend of mine whispered "Can we please turn this off?" I'm not sure who thought this movie was appropriate for children. It gave me nightmares for nearly a decade.
Dorothy finds a key with an Oz symbol on it, shows it to Auntie Em and Uncle Henry as proof that Oz exists, and is sent to an insane asylum!An evil insane asylum where they give our young heroine electro-shock therapy! That's how this "childrens' film" starts! Once Dorothy gets to Oz, it's a speeding night train of horrors. How about that Nome King? Good LORD! Winged monkeys aren't scary enough anymore, let's give the kids The Wheelers -- sadistic shrieking psychopaths with roller skates instead of hands and feet! Kids today won't be satisfied with just a standard wicked witch, let's really ramp that up too, and ruin their lives! The sequence with the witch's cabinets full of human heads easily rivals anything in the Nightmare on Elm Street series for sheer terror. "Dorothy Gaaaaaale!!!!"
Even the heroes are horrifying! Jack Pumpkinhead? A hybrid stick n' pumpkin creature who calls Dorothy "Mother"? That's your good guy? Not cool, Return to Oz. Not cool.