Nostalgia is a helluva drug, and we’re all junkies. The entertainment industry recognizes this and that’s why studios are all too eager to reboot, remake and relaunch the most cherished television shows and films from your childhood. But not everything deserves to, or should, come back from the past. These are the movies that illicit such a traumatic and painful flashback when you stumble upon a random clip, or catch sight of the theatrical poster somewhere, or even when someone simply evokes the title in a conversation. Such movies deserve nothing better than for their 800 foot long, oxide-coated, magnetic tape insides, to rot, forever entombed inside a yellowed, dusty plastic sarcophagus, at the bottom of a soggy, partially disintegrated cardboard box, underneath piles of moth-eaten and silverfish infested sweaters, in the hellish inferno that is your parents’ attic. The Dark Crystal is one such film. Despite rumors of its revival over the years, including a scrapped sequel called Power of the Dark Crystal, and a Robot Chicken parody, nothing has ever materialized–until now. Last week Netflix announced a forthcoming 10-episode series entitled, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a prequel based on the original 1982 film, and just like that, all the horrors of my childhood began flooding back.
Netflix describes the new series as: “Three Gelflings discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis power, and set out on an epic journey to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world.” You do realize how this ends right? It worked for Rogue One I suppose. I’ll never understand how a film like The Dark Crystal achieved its present day cult-classic status, considering it received tepid reviews when it was released, and more importantly, scared the hell out of almost every child who watched it. One critic said that “The Dark Crystal casts its spell from its very first frames and proceeds so briskly that it’s over before you realize it. You’re left with the feeling that you have just awakened from a dream.” Nightmare fuel would be a more effortless description. If you happen to own a VHS copy, or worse the 25th anniversary blu-ray edition, you better be a re-sale store. Rotten Tomatoes currently gives it a 72%, which seems about 36% too high if you ask me. It’s one of a handful of movies that were so damaging to my young psyche, that I have honestly only viewed it no more than a couple of times. Don’t get me wrong, The Dark Crystal is a highly imaginative film in both scope and design, and one that doesn’t rely heavily on CGI, rather uniquely groundbreaking live action puppetry as well as ethereally mystical environments and settings, courtesy of Frank Oz and the genius of the late, great, Jim Henson. Yet unlike Henson’s other beloved projects, The Muppet Show and subsequent movies, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller, and to some extent Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal stands alone at its best as a mythological quest, good versus evil, yin-yang tale, which is utterly grim, dark and violent–a pre-pubescent introduction to the horror genre. Billed as a fantasy film, most parents were oblivious to the film’s macabre tones, including my own mom, who took me to see the film when I was seven years old. However, she clearly didn’t want to see it, because after she seated me, she whispered, “remember, if you need me I’ll be across the hall watching Tootsie” and walked out. Before you start judging, this practice wasn’t outside the norm–at least for me–kids were independent and free then, remember this was the 80’s. Also what was rated PG then, would now be considered PG-13 now.
Ask yourself, over the past 35 years, have you ever wondered what life was like before the Gelfing genocide? If so, I’m sure you’ll see how it all went down in the most brutal way, in the new series. Let me remind you there are some downright unnerving wtf scenes from the original film. Just imagine your seven year-old self watching as a gentle, podling has its life-force literally sucked out of its body, withering its innocent, teeny, cherubic, muppet-like face, only to become a dead-eyed slave for the menacing, skeletal, vulture-like reptiles, called the Skeksis. Speaking of the Skeksis, how about that dinner table scene, as they drool and masticate loudly, in an almost sexual way, poking and prodding at each other and their revolting food? Ewww. That sword fight scene where they hit the rock was cool, except for when the conniving Skeksis–the one who’s incessantly whimpering–lost the contest and had his ornate, layered robes and clothes, unmercifully ripped from his body, leaving him in tattered rags, barely covering, his once hidden, weak and atrophied body. I’m certain you’ll learn how they became so dehydrated and gross. Have you been wringing your hands to see more puppet junk? If there wasn’t enough glimpses in the original, there’s probably more flashes of well-placed–but tasteful–muppet nudity in one of the upcoming Netflix episodes. Perhaps the new series will rely on a comical trope in the form of a doe eyed, bubbling animal, to provide laughs in between gruesome scenes where butterfly-horse creatures are shredded and devoured by giant beetles. Will that haggish, horned, nipply, grey-haired, mustached woman with three eyes make an appearance in the new series? Will she be played by a more diverse and younger muppet? Lastly, will there be another unexpected and violent stabbing resulting in the death of a major muppet protagonist? Only time will tell.
If Netflix thinks The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will be successful hooking younger audiences, along with nostalgic bingers, think again. The new series sounds just as bizarrely creepy as the original, but maybe that’s the point. The rebooting of treasured films is unavoidable. However resuscitating one that packs such an emotionally unpredictable and mentally damaging trip, like The Dark Crystal, is not what we need right now, nor will we ever.