93 min., 1982
Written by David Odell/Jim Henson
Directed by Jim Henson/Frank Oz
My rating: ★★★★★
A horror movie carefully hidden in a child’s tale.
* * *
The movie begins with a little prologue talking about how we’ve come to the point of the start of the movie. You see about a thousand years ago on the planet Thra there was a race called the urSkeks who were watchers of the Crystal of Truth until it cracked and turned into the Dark Crystal. The urSkeks then split into two different races, the kind Mystics and the cruel Skeksis. We then fast forward to modern times where the Skeksis are taking another race named the Podlings (or what seems to be any other life form) and stealing their life essence to stay young, while the Mystics are living in seclusion. As one of the Skeksis dies, a Mystic also dies showing that even after all these years they are still connected. When then meet Jen who is a Gelfling and has been under the care of the Mystics and has now been told that he is the one that will repair the Dark Crystal and that he should go and talk to Aughra and she will help. So begins the adventure of Jen the Gelfling…
There are going to be people that are wondering why the hell this movie is on a horror movie blog. That’s a good question, but it also has a simple answer that is also a question. Why can’t kids’ movies fall under the horror genre? If you look at some kids’ movies and even TV shows they are completely horror or horror themed. Goosebumps for example is a great series for kids that are without question horror and most of the endings really aren’t that happy or normal. So The Dark Crystal is perfect for this, with its overall dark themes, cruel villains who do terrible things (literally draining the life out of other beings to stay young, Elizabeth Bathory anyone?) and all the life forms on the planet have a bit of creepiness about them. Fizzgig is a great example. Cute and fuzzy but with two rows of terrifying teeth and let’s not forget about the Landstriders who just look flat-out creepy. There are the Skeksis, deranged buzzard looking things that do the cruelest things and have some really creepy minions. Those fucking Garthim (the beetle looking things that carry away the podlings and attack Aughra’s home) scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. Do they still scare me now? Not really, it’s more of a childhood fear, but I can still see kids getting freaked out by them even today. So why is it here? Because it’s a horror movie, that’s why. Deal with it.
It’s hard to really comment on the overall acting of this movie. But as far as that goes, the voice acting is great. With the characters’ voices really bringing all of them to “real” life. There are a lot of movies (mainly animated) where the voices just don’t seem to fit the character or the company is just trying to bring in some talent or star power and the voices just don’t work or make them believable. But there is no problem with this movie as all the characters’ voices fit perfectly.
The puppetering, Muppet work and overall effects still hold water today, with few scenes showing any real wear with age. Then again not having any humans in the movie and it taking place on a completely different world is also very helpful, as there is nothing “modern” or “old” to compare it to. Every character is very unique in the way that they move and even their facial movements are pushing the bounds of realism. Just great.
Most of the time I don’t really say much about directors, but this is one where they need to be mentioned. Both Jim Henson and Frank Oz are great behind the camera. Sometimes when you have two directors working on one project it really shows that there are two people. But Henson and Oz must have had their brains tossed in a blender; because there is no distinction throughout the movie that there are two directors and that show some great workmanship or bonding.
This is still a great movie, even though after the age of maybe ten it does stop being scary. Even with that you should check this one out and relive some childhood scares or maybe create some new ones.Have You Read...?