Gale (Stay Away From Oz) movie poster

Gale (Stay Away From Oz)

In theaters September 18, 2023



27 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , ,

There’s a new horror platform app called Chilling, available in the Google Play and Apple stores as well as online, and it began rolling out content this week. Reminiscent of early Screambox and Shudder, promotional materials claim, “Chilling gives independent creators a platform to share content and compete against studios that create generic material just to hit metrics and sell tickets.” That’s a bold statement coming from a company that is repackaging The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Gale (Stay Away From Oz) (2023) is a horror short that teases what could become an eventual series if it can get legs. Emily (Chloë Culligan Crump), fighting nightmares and shifts in reality, comes across a journal belonging to Dorothy Gale, a lost relation. The scribbles and notations about a fantastic world eventually became Dorothy’s bestselling novel (that Emily apparently never heard of). Dorothy, now elderly and in the throes of dementia, can no longer fight to keep the worlds separate, and it’s up to Emily to carry on where Dorothy left off, maybe using the journal as a guidebook?

Your guess is as good as mine. By the way, the trailer has scenes not found in the screener I was offered.

If that seems vague and disjointed, that’s because that’s all we get in this 27-minute short. The description was far more comprehensive than the film itself There have been recent remakes of Frank L. Baum’s children’s novel The Wizard of Oz (George M. Hill Company, 1900), like the short-lived 2017 mini-series, Emerald City (NBC) that while bizarre, fulfilled a sense of the fantastically foreign and dangerous world Oz could be. It also had ten full episodes. Gale wants to be more than a short film, and there may even be enough material for an entire series, however, this teaser is missing that well-rounded bubble of closure, and frankly, suspense. In director Daniel Alexander’s effort to update and modernize a story that’s 123 years old, there is an over-reliance on familiarity of the source material while simultaneously throwing it out the window. Very few people have actually read The Wizard of Oz, or any of the other books in the series, drawing only on memories from the 1939 movie with Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton. That makes this very ambitious short film an even more frustrating watch. Just as the audience is getting familiar with Emily and Dorothy and a woman who might be the Wicked Witch of the West, the entire landscape shifts, and the story ends.

And if you want to watch any of it, it’s $3.99/month.

I am all for independent producers and creators providing original content with funding sourced from a subscription service, and Chilling sems to have a healthy mix of short horror films and established classics, like Halloween (1978) and Malevolence (2003), but the site organization needs a little work, like separating the short films from the full-length features, and killing the autoplay when you click on a title. That said, I don’t know if Gale is the short I would have promoted first, had anyone asked little ol’ me. There are too many loose threads with no promise of a solid conclusion, and that’s before placing it behind a paywall.

Maybe Gale will click its heels and find itself in the land of funding and requests for a full movie/season, but right now it’s missing a heart.

Gale (Stay Away From Oz) (2023) is unrated but call it PG 13 for solid thematic atmosphere, even if it doesn’t go anywhere.

Gale (Stay Away From Oz) is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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