Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, acted by puppets. In a dying world, the only hope is to repair the cracked Dark Crystal. The task of doing so falls to Jen, a Gelfling (they’re kinda like elves) who was raised by the kindly Mystics (a cross between a horse and something with four arms). Along the way he meets Kira, another Gelfling. Together they have to face the evil Skeksis (kinda like buzzards) who plan to kill them so they can continue ruling.
Sound complicated? Yes, a little. Dark? You betcha. I’m including this movie among the horror genre because it’s very creepy and atmospheric. I was a little freaked out by it as a child. A couple of minor characters die on-screen (but not gruesomely). The Skeksis are scary, as are their minions, the Garthim, which are giant beetles, and also the Podlings, who have had their living essence drained and stare blankly.
Also potentially scary is Aughra, a grouchy hag with one eye—though she’s a protagonist. Not to mention the Skeksis’ passion for killing things. Even on a recent viewing, I still felt dread in the pit of my stomach during some parts. However, the movie is far from completely depressing and horrifying. There’s no small amount of comic relief, for example Kira’s pet Fizzgig, a tiny furball with eyes that communicates with high-pitched screeches. There’s also Jim Henson’s cute little background animals.
If I had to say what the movie is about, I would be at a loss. It’s good not to kill and enslave people? Maybe it’s something environmental? During a recent viewing my sister Leslie pointed out the class differences between the Mystics and the Skeksis. The former are like hippies; they’re gentle and kind and live off of the land. The latter are cruel and bourgeois. They live in a castle, have servants, and feast. But I can’t pin down the theme as hippies are good, because the Mystics are said to be mindlessly practicing rituals. Jim Henson was big on kindness and changing the world for the better, so it’s safe to say that is a factor.
As creepy and potentially traumatizing as it may be, it’s ultimately hopeful, with a happy ending. The Dark Crystal was a major part of my childhood; my sisters and I still reference it to this day. It’s a good watch, and if your kids aren’t spoiled by CGI, they’re bound to get a kick out of it. (And if they are, you can just wait for the inevitable remake.) *Ha ha, I wrote this in 2016; now that I’m editing in 2019, there’s a reboot T.V. show.*