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In the visually striking short film “Gale”, Daniel Alexander builds a tense and foreboding world, adding to the dark mythos of Oz.

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Frank L. Baum released The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900 and introduced the world to Dorothy Gale, Toto the Dog, The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman, and my favorite, The Cowardly Lion.

Baum would go on to write thirteen sequels, crafting a world that would thrill and enchant children worldwide. Little did Baum know that his novel would be adapted multiple times for stage, screen, and books.

Whenever you mention Oz, most people will immediately jump to Judy Garland and the seminal 1939 film adaptation The Wizard of Oz.

Gale is the latest adaption from UK director Daniel Alexander. The story follows Emily Gale, the last living relative of the now-elderly Dorothy, who, after years of battling with the dark forces from the mystical realm of Oz, has become a broken shell of a person. Emily is traumatized by the passing of her mother and, despite her best efforts for a new beginning, somehow finds herself being compelled to seek out her relative and get to the bottom of her terrifying visions.

At a brisk twenty-eight minutes, Gale packs in a tremendous amount of storytelling.

Daniel Alexander crafts a fresh and interesting take on the Oz story, drawing inspiration from the darker elements of Baum’s original work along with a sprinkling of Disney’s deliciously dark 1985’s Return to Oz thrown in for good measure.

Gale’s Mise-en-scene certainly establishes that we are no longer in Kansas.

The Lollipop Guild will not be offering a hearty welcome to Munchkin Land, nor will there be jaunty skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.

Now, some people might roll their eyes at another “dark” adaptation of a beloved children’s classic, and they may have a point, but GALE is a genuinely interesting take on the Oz mythos.

Gale has real moments of horror in its use of the nightmare fuel, that is, of course, The Wheeler, played by Philip Hulford, who perfectly captures the unsettling physicality needed for the role. What I loved about the inclusion of this wonderful character is the fact it’s not overplayed.

It’s all wonderfully deployed to induce flashbacks for any of us who were taken to see Return to Oz in 1985.

The short glimpses we get of certain iconic characters all add to this visually impressive film. The menacing glimpse of a flying monkey’s face looming out of the dark, matched with some very impressive sound editing, produces a true “Bête noire”.

It is in these almost surreal moments that the film is at its most powerful.

With a cast that delivers solid performances, central to this is Chloë Crump as Emily Gale.

Gale

Crump’s performance is believable, and you really buy into her terror as she is drawn deeper into an increasingly nightmarish world.

For me, the standout performance goes to Laura Kay Bailey as Dr Bailey/Mombi. Both play off each other beautifully, with Bailey bringing a deeply intimidating presence to her role.

Clara Emanuel has a much tougher role to play as the Therapist/Good Witch. Although her performance is good, she does get saddled with some clunky dialogue.

Karren Swain, who plays Dorothy, gives an equally heartbreaking and frightening performance.

I cannot recommend Gale highly enough and would genuinely like to see this expanded into a feature.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4
Gale is currently streaming exclusively on the new platform, Chilling, which offers independent creators a chance to share content and compete against studio releases.

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