Seasons greetings & dark dreamings to you from the shady side of Wondertropolis.
Though I have been pressured to reveal myself by the powers that be, I will choose to conceal my identity for the time being. Rest assured I would not want to sully your reputation, good reader, by putting my name on your tongue.
As I understand, the people of Earth enjoy watching the dark imaginings of their fellow humans called “horror films,” particularly in the autumn. It seems that across the Continuum, there are those who justly support your right to express the shadowy side of your imagination for all to see.
So, in the spirit of the Earth season, select dark thinkers have helped me provide a lovely listing of blackly comic and heart-wrenching horror films for your curiosity and enjoyment this spooky season. My thanks to Frank for publishing this creepy collection-- I suppose for an Alyssian, he isn't so bad.
With each film on the list presenting their own darkly twisted visions of Alice in Wonderland inspired by Lewis Caroll's imaginative books, one must wonder just what Alyss was getting up to beyond the looking glass...
Keep an open mind and grab some “popped corn” as we peer through the looking glass into a selection of frightening Wonderlands to watch.
Starting off our tour of scary Alice in Wonderland film series is a cheeky vision of Lewis Carroll's tale fused with the energy & criminal wackiness you might expect in a Guy Ritchie movie. Watch as an amnesiac Alice goes down the rabbit hole of a quirky & violent criminal underworld of a Wonderland hidden within London in this mad film by director Simon Fellows.
Though not a film for viewers of all ages, one can't help but be amused at the film's campy rendition of the King/Queen of Hearts as one and the same. If you can take a walk on the wild side without too many expectations, Malice in Wonderland is a fun first watch for those with black imaginations.
In all honesty, these next two movies make me think the filmmakers were graduates of the Benevolent Home for Lost Girls (high praise to the director Dennis Devine). In Alice in Murderland, we shift from shocks to schlock as axe murders and an awkwardly themed Alice in Wonderland sorority party will make you reach for the nearest goblet of jabberwocky blood.
There is little mystery to be solved, and a clear “adult” motive to the casting & costuming in this particular Wonderland to such a degree that I can't help but laugh. Perhaps this is a tea party best enjoyed by a few mad friends who appreciate a bad joke, as the ridiculous violence and premise are sure to delight those with a tweedled sense of humor.
Bouncing back from schlock but not completely, we have The Darker Side of the Mirror directed by Zach Hamer. Presenting the Lewis Carroll story through the lens of turn-of-the-century America as its setting, this film touches on heavier topics with a more serious tone. The setting allows many of Earth's troubling habits such as addiction and mental health mistreatment in a way that many interpretations of the characters of Alice in Wonderland lack.
However, this is offset by the grandiose theatre troupe performances of the residents of Wonderland present a bit cartoonish in the quiet Pacific Northwest setting. On the other hat, the grand scope of the history & locations is ambitious and manages to get across the idea of a darkly mad world.
If you find the previous films far to tame and desire a Wonderland that is darkly imaginative and visually fantastic, then you have made it to the deepest end of the rabbit hole. The next entry is directed by Jan Švankmajer titled simply: Alice.
Following closer to the events as insisted upon by Lewis Caroll in his Alice in Wonderland, this vision of Alyss childhood adventure frighteningly charming as “kid's movies” of previous generations tend to be. Using a mix of stop-motion animation and in-camera special effects to bring the perspective of a young child to life, Alice feels more like scary dream from childhood than a children's story (as it should be).
The fusion of toys and everyday household object to create the familiar faces & characters of Alice in Wonderland never ceases to amaze and unnerve. The “Alice” of this tale herself “transforms” into a doll when shrinking down, making her truly a part of Wonderland as she crawls through desks and doors searching for that white rabbit.
The madcap adventure is capped by the black humor of the young “Alice” of this tale considering taking up the habit of beheading, perhaps as a little hint of what will become of that child's dark imagination.
If you've made it this deep in the list then perhaps you do have a taste for the dark imaginings that Alyss' adventures have inspired. Assuming you have an appreciation for the black & bleak, this next Wonderland is perhaps the darkest offering we have available. (I dare say, it almost approaches the terror levels that Her Imperial Viciousness Queen Redd inspires).
Not a tale for the faint of heart, Red Kingdom Rising (directed by Navin Dev) dives into the darker drama of life on Earth but begins to blur the border between dreams and the waking world. Here we see a version of the story Alyss told Lewis Carroll through the lens of psychological revelation of trauma. Proceed with caution when you witness a truly black imagination at work.
The fusion of “Alice” and the smiling Cat is a fun, although obvious, portrayal of the character and her inner child still trapped in the Wonderland of her abusive past. In dealing with the grim setting and tone, the cast of this particular Wonderland perform a bit stiffly but are not afraid to really commit to the madness when the narrative flows between dreams and supposed reality.
I hope you will enjoy watching these darker visions of Alice in Wonderland, it is always a joy to see the various shadows from such vivid imaginations on the others side of the Continuum. It seems at any time in history you can find the darkest parts of Wonderland alive and well in the imaginations of many. Strange we don’t see more of Hatter Madigan don’t you agree?
If you enjoyed this taste of the spooky and strange, do show your support of society's darker imaginings and come back for more. Always remember that you need dark to complement the light… and if the Watchers catch you with this list, well you didn't get it from me!
Marco Arizpe graduated from the University of Southern California and The American Film Institute with degrees in filmmaking and screenwriting. His brand of borderland gothic horror stems from his experiences growing up in a small town where Texas and Mexico meet. Culturally steeped in a rich history of all things terrifying, Marco never fails to bring forward indigenous folklore in contemporary and fresh settings.