Return to Oz, the sequel to Wizard of Oz, isn’t just odd. It’s also an often sad movie that attempts to look at the long-term effects of childhood trauma through the lens of a young girl trying to return to a fantasy world that’s been completely upended.
Many people think scary children's movies are a necessity; they prepare kids for the often dark world waiting for them upon entering adulthood and they help them understand that not everything has a happy ending. But Return to Oz remains pretty intense for young viewers all the same.
Even if you only watched Return to Oz once, you remember the Wheelers. As an adult it's easy to appreciate Walter Murch (the film's director) teasing the Wheelers in the real world with the orderlies pushing squeaky hospital trollies, but once these creations start speeding around and howling at Dorothy all appreciation of semiotics and foreshadowing goes out the window.
After escaping the Wheelers, Dorothy finds herself in the burned out ruins of the witch Mombi's castle where she hangs out playing the lute all day while swapping out heads.
There are two scenes where Dorothy is lead down a hallway of disembodied heads. The first is when it's revealed that Mombi is swapping heads in order to suit her moods. The heads are the imaginary counterparts to the disembodied voices living in the cellar of the insane asylum - each one calling out for something that they've lost.
Dorothy is brought to Dr. Worley's asylum in the first third of the film. Audiences soon realize that everyone and everything that they see in the asylum will make an appearance in the land of Oz.
Once locked in her chamber by Nurse Wilson, Dorothy stays herself while becoming a small blonde girl (later revealed to be Ozma) who only appears in the dark or in Dorothy's reflection. The scenes are also soundtracked with screams coming from the cellar.
All the beloved characters from The Wizard of Oz were turned to stone. Some of the younger women from Oz lost their heads as well.
Thankfully Fairuza Balk manages to tether the scene to reality by showing genuine pathos while hugging the statue of the Cowardly Lion.