Here’s one yellow brick road we probably wouldn’t want to stroll down alone.
For as much as The Wizard of Oz is a perennial cinematic classic, the world of L. Frank Baum’s novels is getting a new, very dark big-screen interpretation.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: Prepare yourself for a horror movie set in the land of Oz.
To be fair, Baum’s novels have inspired countless film adaptations over the years as well as television shows like NBC’s current Emerald City and stage productions like The Wiz and Wicked. The best known incarnation, of course, is the 1939 Hollywood musical The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale.
Even so, the prospect of a new straight-up horror take on the source material remains fairly unique.
New Line Cinema is developing the project based on a pitch by Mike Van Waes, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Van Waes is a writer who already has a spec script, Hammerspace, currently held by New Line parent Warner Bros.
Plot details have not yet been revealed, although the film reportedly is closely tied to Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This 1900 novel was the first in the author’s long-running series, and is the one most often brought to film. Meanwhile, New Line has a long history of horror releases, from its 1984 success story A Nightmare on Elm Street to last year’s top-grossing horror hit, The Conjuring 2.
At this early stage, it’s anyone’s guess how steeped in horror Van Waes’ script will turn out to be. The finished film will depend greatly on the filmmaker who comes aboard to direct it, and of course, how much the story changes over the course of development. Many films never make it successfully from development to production, and those which do often wind up drastically altered by the time audiences get the chance to see them.
If this horror Wizard of Oz does stay closely to the chills and thrills the genre is known for, it will veer down fresh territory for the oft-adapted source material. Many past incarnations have embraced elements of dark fantasy – Disney’s 1985 adventure Return to Oz has been traumatizing children for years – but there’s a fine distinction between a fantastical journey with grimmer elements to it and a straight-up horror film.
It will be interesting to see if Van Waes’ film ultimately does aim for the latter.
Robert Yaniz Jr.
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