We're calling it: Return to Oz is the most disturbing "children's film" to ever exist.



Nearly half a century after Dorothy first took a trip over the rainbow for a sparkly new pair of shoes, unsuspecting parents took their children to the cinema to see the film’s Disney re-interpretation, Return to Oz in 1985.

They were probably expecting a fun and lighthearted adaptation of the 1939 classic to tap their feet along to. Fun!

Little did they know, they would soon subjected to the most potent nightmare fuel in cinematic history, involving headless demons conjured up from the depths of hell, otherwise known as the darkest corner of some depraved screenwriters’ imagination.

(Okay, that’s a little harsh. But who seriously decided this was fit for children?)

Watch the trailer for Return to Oz below. Post continues after video.

We wouldn’t be surprised if these parents spent a great deal of the film covering their children’s eyes and suppressing their own shrieks of terror, but fast-forward a few decades, and most of us have probably watched the film ourselves.


Maybe our older siblings wanted to expose us to the same form of sensory torture. Maybe our parents thought it necessary to scare the living daylights out of us before our own foray into adulthood. Who knows.

What we do know is the story which follows how Dorothy – played by Fairuza Balk, who went on the star in The Craft, which actually makes a lot of sense – found her way back to the magical Land of Oz is… truly horrifying.

Fairuza Balk in 1996 film The Craft. We see how this... happened. Image: Youtube.

Throughout her journey into a fantasy world that’s been completely upended with a dark, dark result, she encounters a bunch of truly cooked creatures. She's also institutionalised and called "Mummy" by a giant pumpkin man and she's what, eight?


Here are seven of the most terrifying aspects of the "kids film" Return to Oz – based on the second and third Oz books – which has haunted us for far, far too long.

1. The Wheelers.

The Wheelers are not easy to forget. But if you have managed to banish the memory of these howling half-man, half-hoverboards with giant wheel arms, demonic faces and an erratic presence, we are truly sorry for reminding you of them again.

The Wheelers flail their limbs and sneer at Dorothy far too many times within the film, and we would very much like them to cease to exist.

2. Princess Mombi.

The Wheeler's were just the tip of the iceberg.

Soon after escaping them, Dorothy finds herself in the ruins of the witch/Princess Mombi's castle where she hangs out playing the lute all day, swapping heads to suit her moods.

Yep. Just like changing outfits, she swaps heads.

But that's not all – there are two scenes where Dorothy is led down a hallway of disembodied heads that shout at her. She's also chased by a headless Mombi at one point.


Oh, we're sorry, did you want to sleep tonight?

3. The Nome King.

More like the nope king.

From his big rock face, his too-blue eyes and the downright creepy way in which he shows off his ruby slippers, the Nome King needs to be cancelled ASAP.

Aside from his hideous appearance and slimy mannerisms, his propensity to turn people into knick-knacks for fun, and the fact that he wants to consume Dorothy to keep her all to himself is a level of terrifying we definitely weren't prepared for at 12 years old.

Thanks for that one.

4. The fact that Dorothy suffers from PTSD.

Right. So this is where the genre lines of psychological horror and children's film are truly blurred.

Return to Oz picks up a few months after Dorothy returns to Kansas after defeating the Wicked Witch of the West. She's not the same. She can't eat. She can't sleep. She's, as many of us can recognise now, suffering from some serious mental health issues.

She's also no more than eight years old.

Dorothy has also been convinced that everything she experienced in Oz was a figment of her imagination, but when the memories refuse to fade, she's sent to an asylum.


We were far too young to be exposed to such dark subject matter and we don't like it. Dorothy was supposed to live happily ever after. WE. WERE. NOT. PREPARED.

5. Tik-Tok.

Throughout the film, robot... thing (not Ke$ha song) Tik-Tok is Dorothy's protector.

He saves her from the Wheelers, helps fight off Mombi, and helps her try and stop the Nome King. But he's also a broken down hunk of metal filled with existential dread who speaks about death far too much.

It's all very sad.

At one point he tells Dorothy of how he was trapped in the crumbled-down Emerald City: "I called for help until my voice ran down. Then I paced back and forth until my action ran down. Then I thought until my thought ran down."

And later he says: "I am not alive and never will be."

He sounds like the lyrics of a My Chemical Romance song far beyond his time.

6. The Gump.

The Gump is a pretty friendly character, but much like Tik-Tok, he talks about dying – rather, wanting to die – far too much than he should for a fictional creature.

He has an elk-like head with a broom for a tail, a couch for a body, and palm fronds for wings, and was created by Dorothy and her army with the "Powder of Life" to escape from our headless pal Mombi's castle.

His existence is all pretty troubling, as is the fact that he makes multiple remarks about how things were better when he was just a head.

There are far too many disembodied heads in this movie for our liking. Image: Youtube.


Yeah, nah.

7. Jack the Pumpkinhead.

Jack the Pumpkinhead looks a bit like if a guy who works at JB Hi-Fi fell into a giant pumpkin and couldn't get their head unstuck. Or any guy you've ever met at a crusty pub.


He's lanky, wears skinny jeans, boots and would definitely have some sort of ironic tattoo if we could see his arms.

Hands up if this is your type. Image: Youtube.

He also has a pumpkin for a head and wants Dorothy (who we repeat, is eight years old) to be his mum.

Jack is a nightmare.

The end.