Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Revisiting a Classic

Or, How I Learned to Start Worrying and Wonder How the Christ I Survived the Dark Crystal as a Child.

I got a fancy TV for Christmas last year and put the old analog set in my bedroom. I recently realized I could hook up a VCR to that old ass set and watch all my old Disney VHS tapes, so that's exactly what I did. I may or may not have watched "Beauty and the Beast" for several nights in a row. And then I dug a little deeper into the Rubbermaid tote to discover what else lay waiting . . . and found "The Dark Crystal."

You guys. This is seriously the most fucked up movie I've ever seen, and I've seen "Irreversible." I remember being moderately jibblied after seeing this as a child, and I very distinctly remember looking over at my mother during the screening and not quite recognizing the look on her face. I think that would have happened when the Skeksi Emperor died and shriveled and decomposed while the other Skeksis shrieked along.

Yeah, let's talk about the Skeksis. They are giant anthropomorphic vultures. There is literally a five minute scene in this movie that consists solely of the Skeksis screaming at each other. No words, just screaming. Big crusty birds in Victorian throne room costumery, screaming at each other. They survive by draining the souls of slaves. This is not inferred by our adult selves, it is explicitly stated in the context of the film. All of the Skeksis have real name (that's good trivia, FYI), but they are called by their occupations, which include such colorful titles as " Scientist," "Ritual Master," and "Slave Master." The Chamberlain loses a battle (which consists of swinging big ass swords at a rock) and is banished. But before he is cast out, he is stripped and mocked, and you guys, I'm pretty sure he has teats.

So the Skeksis are the bad guys, and the Gelflings are our heroes. There are only two gelflings left, as there was a big ol' genocide, which we learn from watching baby gelfings scream for their mothers. The Skeksis fear the gelflings because according to their prophecies, a gelfing will restore a missing shard to the Crystal, and . . . I don't know . . . that's bad somehow. The plot is wafer thin, friends. So the two gelfings are aided in their quest by Aughra, a shrieking goat-pug harpy woman who removes her one eye so she can see a mere one foot higher than she could if said eye remained in her head. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. And then there are the Pod People. They are sweet and simple and kind, and they are harvested and enslaved so the talking birds can eat their souls. I don't really have much to say about the Mystics. They're not really creepy. They're oddly comforting. Maybe it's their death knell. I don't know.

And finally, there are the Garthim. The Skeksis send these soldiers out to hunt and fetch prey. The Garthim are giant, clicky, spider beetle crab monsters. In a children's movie. Giant clicky spider beetle crab monsters. I just . . . this shit is horrifying!!! Horror aside, the art design in this movie is ridiculous. The Garthim, easily the scariest part, upon analysis are completely beautiful. Their shells are iridescent with tones of blue and green reflecting off the black, and the manpower that went in to animating these bad boys is nothing short of mind blowing, even today. The characters were designed by Brian Froud, who wrote and drew that book that all the girls in your third grade class fought over in the library. The horrors are often hidden under beauty, such as the magic forest Jen travels through, and Fizzgig, the wee puppy-esque creature who is adorable - until he opens his gaping maw to reveal two sets of razor sharp teeth.

Getting back to that look on my mother's face - I am now 100% certain that that look said "what the shit did I just expose my child to?" You exposed me to awesomeness, Ma. I joke about the horrors, and with an adult mind the movie is really messed up. But to a child, it's wondrous and scary and gorgeous. Kids don't get much credit these days, credit for being able to process and reason, and more importantly, to imagine. And they totally should. We watched Tom and Jerry beat the shit out of each other every day after school, and on special occasions we got to see vulture creatures decompose before our very eyes. And we turned out completely cool.