Published by Earthling Publicatons
In the interest of full disclosure I will make a confession right off the bat: I’ve never read any of Frank L. Baum’s Oz books. I’m a bit ashamed to say that since I’ve always been fascinated by the un-Hollywood version of Oz but to date I just have not gotten around to it.
Because of this indescretion toward literary history I was worried that the madness and horror populating the 114 pages of Bloodstained Oz might not resonate with me the way it might for someone who had read the classic series. Thankfully that is not the case at all; Bloodstained Oz is one of the most balls-out horrific stories I’ve ever read and the fact that the harbringers of said ballsy horror are the fabled and beloved creatures of Baum’s creation is like icing on the cake.
Rural Kansas, circa 1933. Massive dust storms and a near yearlong draught have left the residents of Hawley believing they are living out Hell on Earth. There is no water to alleviate the scorching heat and the only thing there is an abundance of are short tempers. To make matters worse, a massive dirt storm moves in on the town on yet another hot and miserable day bringing with it numerous twisters that cause massive destruction everywhere. Even worse than the natural disasters are the unnatural creatures that come with the storm; things that have no right to exist in this world, things with insatiable blood lust and a complete disdain for human life. If the residents of Hawley thought they knew Hell before they soon realize they had no concept of its true face.
Bloodstained Oz follows the story of Hawley’s survivors: a young girl who, along with her parents, makes it through the storm only to be attacked by murderous dolls led by a gaunt, pale figure; a prisoner who witnesses the wholesale slaughter of guards and fellow inmates alike by emerald-eyed beasts; and a gypsy woman struggling to stay alive after vampiric flying monkeys attack the wagon she lives in with her husband and baby. Each of their stories reveal new horrors that have come to their once quiet town, each seemingly more vicious than the last.
I’ve always know Golden was a great and varied writer (I’m not as familiar with Moore, but he comes highly recommended), but I was really surprised at just how far the duo were willing to push what could’ve very easily been a comedic setup. Instead of going for laughs, Moore and Golden go straight for the throat and hold nothing back from the reader. When Chris mentioned this book in my recent interview with him he told me it contained one of the most horrific things he’s ever written. I know exactly what he’s referring to now and I guarantee you will too when it happens… I just hope you have the stomach for its implications.
The flying monkeys, munchkins, Tin Man and Lion, even the Scarecrow (albeit briefly, and he goes out in a bad way… ) are all here but none of them are the same. While the authors’ description of these classic characters in the confines of this story is unique, I still couldn’t help but picture them the way they were in the classic film The Wizard of Oz and that’s where Glenn Chadbourne comes in.
Chadbourne’s art has appeared in books by Richard Chizmar, Rick Hautala, and most recently Stephen King’s Secretary of Dreams, not to mention numerous issues of Cemetery Dance, and his dark and twisted visions are perfectly suited to this story. You’ve just read a particularly disturbing passage, one with lots of bloodshed, and you think your imagination has done a pretty decent job conjuring up the nightmarish scene… then you turn the page and see Glenn’s work and realize just how bad of a nightmare this really is.
There’s really no better complement or more efficient companion to this story than Chardbourne’s artwork as it rounds out a very well told horror tale. It’s a fast and brutal read but still manages to provide enough insight into the characters at its core to make you care for their well being. Bloodstained Oz, plain and simple, is a damned good horror story. Accessible by someone like me with no further background than a Hollywood vision and I can only imagine how much more deeply it will twist itself into the psyche of someone who has explored further, someone who knows more of Oz and its residents.
Discuss Bloodstained Oz in our forums!