The Wizard of Oz as a Horror Story

. . . you don't always know that a story will be a horror

Photo by Iman Soleimany Zadeh on Unsplash

My mother took me to see the Wizard of Oz when I was 3 years old.  Unfortunately, no matter how smart a three year old is, she is not prepared to meet people she knows in "real life" as odd and, sometimes, scary figures in an alternate reality.  Now, of course, the movie wasn't about people I knew, but I entered the life of Dorothy- suddenly transported to a strange place with strange people and when she woke up in her own room  with the characters of the story appearing as people in her real life, I was very upset.  Despite that experience, I erred as a parent bringing my 2 year old daughter to see"2001, The Space Odyssey".   She sat through the whole thing with saucer eyes, although she was much more openly disapproving about the Arlo Guthrie movie, "Alice's Restaurant".  A generation later I struck out again with my granddaughter, taking her - during the Great Recession - to see the Muppets' movie about the Great Recession.  Well, it's the Muppets - how can the muppets be scary?  About a quarter of the way into the movie, she shook my sleeve.  With a look of sheer panic on her face, she wanted to leave - now!  Poor thing, it took her years to be able to even look at a picture of a muppet, although she had to get over it for her baby sister who loved Elmo.

It turns out that above and beyond movies that are designated as "horror", people like myself might designate any film/story that focuses on human behavior that induces a sense of fear or vulnerability as being a horror film.

How Things Progress over time

We have transitions in life.  From babyhood to preschool to school(elementary) to school(jr/sr high) and on and on.  When I was a young woman, the major transition of life, as far as I knew, came at the age of 40, the big FOUR-OH. At forty, I said, "I don't get it.  I don't feel any different."  For me the first major transition took place at 50.  But it wasn't scary - just philosophical.  My birthday is in May, before the beaches open up, so I rented a place facing the ocean for a week, and went down there to think and to write.

Between the ages of 70 to 79 I surely knew that I was going to turn 80 and it was an important turning point because it's an age when you begin to truly understand that your time on earth is limited.  As my grandmother and great-grandmother both lived to  89, I had a real question about how long i could sustain my life,  an active life.  But I didn't think about it much.

Imagine my surprise when a month or two after I turned 80, I started waking up at 5am, that period when you are neither fully awake or fully asleep.  It is a time when you are most vulnerable because there are no boundaries to protect you.  And what came to me, seemingly unbidden, were scenes from movies that I had designated horror films for me.  I struggled with the scenes played out before me.  Mentally, I'd end my struggle with the admonition to "go away."

But next almost-morning brought a fresh specter, worse than the last.  I continued the battle, thinking that this was an insistent message about my mortality and I was not going to lose.  I was not only going through movies, but authors as well.  One almost morning, I woke with no spector - I thought.  But I turned toward our master bath and the usual soft glow of the night light in the bathroom had turned into the moving light rays of  "The Shining" glimmering around the edges of the bathroom door.

Shouting without voice, so as not to wake my husband, I leapt out of bed and said, "Oh no you don't - this is too much - no more - I ban you!  Get out of here once and for all."

Now . . .


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