The trailer for Gale: Stay Away from Oz was sort of a viral sensation with horror fans when it premiered a year or more back. This dark take on Frank L. Baum’s classic novels looked like it would be a hit with horror and fantasy fans everywhere, but then it disappeared without any info on a release.
It was actually a calling card for a series of short films documenting one young woman’s discovery of her connection to Dorothy Gale and her journey back to Oz.
And all of it is of it dark is dark and gray and a bit spooky.
The first part of the planned series of shorts premiered on the Chilling network on September 18th. Clearly on the lower budget side, the short still effectively creates a creepy atmosphere and manages to utilize fairly effective special FX.
Chloë Crump (who resembles an early 20s Judy Garland) stars as Emily Gale, a girl in therapy for repeated dreams about a place called Oz. Her therapist, Dr. North (Laura Kay Bailey), wants to bring her deeper into her dreams so she can find out why she is having them. When Emily finds an old journal in her recently deceased mom’s things, she is told that it is an early draft of Dorothy Gale’s adventures in a land called Oz.
In director/creator David Alexander’s vision (along with Matthew R. Ford), it was Dorothy Gale who wrote the Oz books, not Frank L. Baum. So, when she goes to find her grandmother, Dorothy, she discovers a woman with not all of her faculties about her. And when she starts screaming at her to “Stay away from Oz,” Emily knows she’s in over her head.
At 28 minutes long, we’re just starting to get into this world when we are told there is a Part 2 on the horizon. Hopefully, “Gale” continues and, perhaps, will be put together into a full-length feature.
Alexander and Gordon’s vision is bleak and dark, but honestly, so was the infamous Return to Oz, starring Fairuza Balk, whose Dorothy actually undergoes shock therapy treatment early in the film. (And yes, a terrifying “wheeler” makes an appearance.)
To be fair, it can, at times, feel like we’ve suddenly started a movie we missed the first 10 minutes of, so you sort of just have to go with it. Emily doesn’t have much of a back story except her mom is recently dead, and she lives alone, so trying to attach ourselves to the character takes a bit.
But because of audiences’ familiarity with the Oz story, it’s easy to invest in the wonder of how this version will play out.
That said, I enjoyed this clever and mysteriously dark take on Oz, and I am very curious to see where it goes next.