Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about why Return to Oz is one of the most nightmarish “kid-friendly” films ever made.
Everyone has a part of their brains cordoned off with caution tape, dedicated to the movies that traumatized them as children. Hell, maybe it wasn’t even a movie. Maybe it was an especially ghastly cartoon or commercial.
The experience of formative, traumatic media is so universal that you can barely throw a skull at the internet without hitting a dozen lists of “nightmare fuel that traumatized us as kids.” The frequency of such lists emphasizes the power of pop culture that leaves dark impressions on us as children. We are simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the things that scare us the most. And when we’re young, we are especially open and receptive to the more nightmarish and primal vibrations of media.
Disney films are frequent bedfellows on such lists. Least of all because the House of Mouse has been responsible for more dark delights than you’d expect. But chief among them, without a doubt, is Return to Oz.
Walter Murch‘s 1985 film has been described as surreal, unnerving, and upsetting. All of this is true, but this is, as the video essay below argues, precisely what makes the film the most faithful adaptation of L. Frank Baum‘s work to date. Where most simply gesticulate wildly towards Return to Oz‘s unsettling aspects, this essay takes the time to unpack the film’s notoriously upsetting reputation in the context of Baum’s work, which drew from, among other things, the tradition of older, darker fairytales.
Watch “Return to Oz is an Absolute Nightmare“:
Who made this?
In Praise of Shadows is a video essay channel run by Zane Whitener and based in Asheville, North Carolina. The channel focuses on horror, history, and retrospectives. You can subscribe to their YouTube channel here And you can follow them on Twitter here.
More Videos Like This
- Here’s another taste of In Praise of Shadows about the cosmic horror of Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond.
- And here’s another video from them on the enigmatic impact of Kenneth Anger’s experimental Magick Lantern Cycle.
- And another, on the life and career of the Polish horror painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, the man who defined the heavy metal album cover aesthetic.
- In their series “Anatomy of a Franchise,” In Praise of Shadows breaks down horror franchises like Tremors, The Stepfather, and Re-Animator. Here’s a link to the series’ playlist.
- Here’s an interview with Fairuza Balk, who plays Dorothy in Return to Oz, speaking about her experience on the film.