It may not be a horror film, but Margaret Hamilton's performance as the Wicked Witch still runs on pure, unfiltered Nightmare Fuel. Everything about her is insanely terrifying if you're a kid, and still thoroughly unsettling if you're an adult. The acid green skin, the eerie shrill voice, the not-quite-human face...and admit it, the creepy laugh has made everyone shiver at least once. And with all the scenes of her flying through the sky on a broomstick, teleporting instantly in a ball of fire, and watching the heroes through her crystal ball, there's the implication that she can find you and hunt you down wherever you are! If anything, the fact that it's a family film makes her scarier: she's obviously a sadist with vast magical powers, but we never see her doing anything that violent...our imaginations get to fill in the details.
The scene when she appeared in the Crystal Ball and said "I'll give you Auntie Em, my pretty!"
Margaret Hamilton, before she was an actress, taught in a primary school; she knew EXACTLY how to scare the crap out of little kids!
In addition to the performance, Hamilton's makeup job is really an awesome achievement for the movie's production staff; there are so many overtly horrific elements to the Witch's design that you might not notice some of the subtler details that just make her seem slightly..."off". Like, while you're focused on the bright green skin and the shrieky voice, you might not notice that her nose and chin◊ are far sharper and more pointed than anything on a real human face. Or that her nails are so long and pointed◊ that they practically look like claws. Or that her face paint is visibly lighter around her eyes—which makes her eyes pop, and gives you the unsettling feeling that she's staring right into your soul.
Margaret also suffers some serious burns cause by some exploding entrances (As seen in some scenes in the film) during her acting as same witch.
Baums interpretation of the Witch from the original book crosses the Moral Event Horizon at least a few times; I.e. her flying monkeys successfully killing the Scarecrow and the Tin Man by tearing them apart, threatening to feast on the Cowardly Lion and making Dorothy her slave.
Also in the book, the Witch actually succeeds at stealing one of the silver shoes. Can you imagine what would have happened if she actually got the Ruby Slippers? Her terror would be even worse....
In the same way that hiding behind the sofa when the Daleks appear is a time-honored coming-of-age ritual for British children, every American child has hidden from the Flying Monkeys at least once. Whenever discussions of the movie come up, it's inevitable that someone will mention being terrified of the monkeys as a kid. It's easy to see why.
And then there's the Wizard in his floating, bulbous head form with red smoke and fire belching from behind him as his voice roars past those sharp teeth. He wanted to scare Dorothy's party away, and there's a reason he succeeded. He scared the Cowardly Lion to the point where the Lion fled the room and jumped out a window.
When the Wicked Witch has our heroes cornered, she's positively gleeful about how Dorothy is going to watch each of her friends die before her. And then, with evil cheer, she says "How about a little fire, scarecrow?" as she sets the terrified Scarecrow alight and he's screaming in fear. Thankfully Dorothy's able to put him out, but that is harrowing.
Unless, of course, the Witch had set the hourglass up to give Dorothy time to take the slippers off of her own volition, or she was going to kill her to get the slippers anyway. This could either be seen as the Witch giving her a sporting chance, or just instilling more fear in Dorothy.
Even worse, in the same scene, Dorothy sees an image of Aunt Em in the crystal ball, hopelessly looking for her. No sooner does Dorothy fail to communicate with her than Aunt Em's image is replaced by the Wicked Witch who mocks Dorothy and threatens her, "I'll give you Auntie Em, my pretty!" And if THAT isn't frightening enough, the Witch then turns to cackle directly at the audienceas if to tell us "I'm coming for YOU next!"
The implication made by the set-up of the escape scene (where the very last of the sand running out is intercut with the Woodsman trying to chop the door open and get her out) is that she will die if she is in the same room with the hourglass when the sand runs out. If this is the case, it's not really any less terrifying than not knowing.
The scene where Miss Gulch is seen riding on her bicycle. There's something unsettling about the way her entire body remains erect and motionless, save for her legs. The big frown on her face also makes her creepy.
Especially later when Dorothy sees Miss Gulch cycling past her window and transforming into the Wicked Witch of the West.
Especially that laugh!
While we're at it, the scene with the twister is quite scary, given that the special effects look really damn good for such an old film, and —at least before Dorothy is knocked unconscious and the fantastical stuff kicks in— the tornado's behavior is more accurate to real life than in many movies that came out over half a century later.
Who here wasn't a little freaked out by the chant of the Winkies? That Metallica saw fit to sample the chanting for a song about someone losing their mind says a lot.
Though it normally goes overlooked since the person in question is one of the Wicked Witches, Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead is, as its name even suggests, a song gleefully celebrating someone's death.
The lyrics never get too graphic, but they do hint some pretty awful stuff.
Once the ruby slippers disappear from East's feet, what little we see of her corpse FLATTENS AND ROLLS UP. Bones, muscles, flesh, just rolled up like a carpet. We never do find out if she left anything at all under the house, or if even her rolled up body mysteriously vanished.
The water Dorothy throws on West causes her body to hiss and produce steam, implying that the wicked witch's skin is not simply turning to goo, but burning (if not outright boiling into liquid). Even worse? When she's almost gone, she makes whimpering, moaning sounds which sit somewhere between her being in extreme pain and being scared to die.
The scene where Dorothy attempts to pick an apple...and the gets promptly smacked by a living, talking, tree.
For those who don't live in countries affected by tornadoes, the first half of the Cyclone sequence is an entirely alien, terrifying experience. What seems at first like a particularly blustery storm escalates with frightening speed into absolute chaos, flattening fences and ripping trees from the ground, all while the wind grows to a deafening roar. Even seeing the twister emerge from behind the farmhouse for the first time is chilling.
Right at the beginning when Dorothy falls into the pigpen. That was probably the most immediate danger she was in for the entire adventure. Pigs will happily kill and eat children if given half a chance.
Testing the "Dark Side of the Rainbow" rumor - that is, playing Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon over the film - might summon some coincidences in how the two sync up. However, as a side effect, the music can radically alter the tone of the movie for the viewer, enhancing the despair of some of its bleaker moments while making the happier parts (like Dorothy's first few moments in Oz, accompanied by the track Money) seem almost sadistic.
In a real life case, Buddy Ebsen almost being killed by the original version of the Tin Man makeup. Apparently he had no idea the damage it was doing to his lungs until one day "I took a breath and nothing happened."
The urban legend about one of the munchkin actors hanging himself onscreen. The popular moment that's most identified as the hanging body is actually an exotic bird bobbing its head and stretching a wing in the background of the woodman's cabin set. But even though the legend has been disproven, it looks so much like a body to some people, and the very concept of an actual death corrupting the film is so disturbing, that the movie will probably never fully shake the foreboding rumor.