In stories where someone crosses over into another reality, we are more likely to think of Alice if the protagonist is female, more likely to think of Orpheus if the protagonist is male. Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker – about a group that journeys to a mysterious “Zone” – was most often compared to The Wizard of Oz, another archetypal protagonist-in-wonderland story. We tend to think of Alice if the protagonist is moving sideways (into a parallel or dream world) and Orpheus if the character is moving “down” (into a hellish underworld). We are more likely to think of Orpheus in connection with darker or death-related alternate reality stories. But the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Alice moves both sideways (Through the Looking Glass) and down (to Wonderland, in a book originally titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground). Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus reaches the Other Side by stepping, like Alice, through a mirror.
Alice stories can and occasionally do end in death (see, e.g., Pan’s Labyrinth). Hitchcock’s Psycho, Chabrol’s Alice, and Lynch’s Inland Empire invoke Alice and Orpheus in equal measure. The name of Henry Sellick’s latest protagonist-in-wonderland, Coraline, sounds like an intentional blending of Orpheus and Alice.
“Off with her head!” screams the Queen of Hearts (Mrs. Bates), and Marion is swallowed down the rabbit hole forever.