Wow! I am being spoiled recently with independent short films. A couple of weeks ago I got to see the marvellous To Fire You Come at Last and today it is Gale: Stay Away from Oz. The first email I got just had the title listed as Gale and I didn’t immediately make the connection with the original source material. But it isn’t long before you make the connections. Somebody is calling out for Dorothy and things start to drop into place. Dorothy…Gale…wasn’t that the name of the young girl in The Wizard Of Oz?
Nowadays The Wizard Of Oz is remembered as a cosy, slightly spooky, fun, family film. There are some dark elements to the reality behind the film. The make up causing health problems, the dog getting paid more than the actors playing the Munchkins, the general abuse and ill treatment of the teenage star, and using asbestos as a stand in for snow were just a few of the entries on the downside ledger. The props, make up, salary, and HR concerns are no longer problems but that doesn’t mean that Gale: Stay Away from Oz doesn’t have its dark side.
There’s No Place Like Home
And that dark side is delightfully orchestrated. Gale: Stay Away from Oz tells the story of Emily Gale (Chloë Crump) who is having some strange dreams and receiving hypnotherapy sessions to help her cope with them. Emily is looking through her mother’s house when she finds a box with bits and pieces in it. Amongst her mother’s stuff is a book full of drawings, hand written notes, and…a phone number. That phone number gets through to the Gale Estate. That’s where her grandmother, Dorothy (Karen Swan) is living. Well…being kept.
Obviously, Dorothy is an older woman now and she is not in a good way. In a similar way to how radiation can affect someone, Dorothy has been damaged by the prolonged exposure to the effects of the mystical world of Oz. While she may look like a frail old lady in a rocking she can still give you quite a turn when she gets upset. And little lines about “clicking her heels together until they are bruised and bleeding” ties it back to the original in a delightfully spooky way.
The Wicked Witch Is Dead
And delightful spookiness is the order of the day. Given that Gale: Stay Away from Oz is under a half hour long it still packs in a whole host of scares and shocks. I’m not sure if the version I saw was a finished version or not as I have seen another trailer which has scenes that weren’t in the version I saw. My previous comments in my review for To Fire You Come at Last hold true here; independent and short films tend not to get very wide audiences. And again I think that is a shame.
Gale: Stay Away from Oz is a nice, clever, spooky extension of the original family favourite. It is skilfully directed by Daniel Alexander who co-wrote it with Matthew R Ford. Possibly the best thing, for me, was the “To Be Continued…” at the end. Whether this would be extra material to make the current offering up to a full length feature or a second short. Or a series of shorts? Either way, I’ll keep an eye out for whatever comes next. Gale: Stay Away from Oz premieres on Chilling on Sept 18th.
Movie Grade: A-
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!