People often forget that not everything Jim Henson created was cute and cuddly. In fact, nothing could be further than the truth when it comes to 1982’s The Dark Crystal, a puppet-driven fantasy horror about a tribe of reptilian overlords known only as ‘The Skeksis’, who are eventually overthrown by the last remaining survivor of a long-forgotten genocide.
The Dark Crystal was very much of its time, so it came as somewhat of a surprise when Netflix announced they were reviving the brand for a prequel series that would explore the years leading up to the events of the movie, all while maintaining the authentic look and design of the original.
If you’ve taken the time to sit and watch The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance then you’ll understand just why we needed to make this list, and why dropping it around Halloween was the most logical choice. Whereas the Dark Crystal movie could be considered a dark fantasy, the prequel is sheer nightmare fuel in places – much of which will be far too scary for younger audiences, and in some cases will even give mummy and daddy a sense of dread.
So without further delay, we suggest you scroll down and begin the list – but if you’re of a weak disposition then having a cushion handy to hind behind might be a good idea.
“GIVE THE CRYSTAL YOUR FEAR”
How many puppet shows have you seen recently that use murder to further their story? The answer is probably none. But murder is an essential part of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and is a key plot point in the very first episode as the true nature of the dirty Skeksis is revealed. Fans of the original movie won’t be shocked by what these beasts are capable of, but the sheer pleasure they take in murdering a helpless young Gelfling in order to drain her of her very essence is a truly harrowing moment.
“THIS PEEPER BEETLE FOUND ONLY IN CRYSTAL DESERT. WE KEEP STARVED. HUNGRY BEETLE LIKES THE SOFT MEATS. FAVOURITE IS ROUND, WET EYES”
It only took two episodes for The Dark Crystal writers to lay their cards firmly on the table. Not only would Age of Resistance be a dark fantasy, but it would also feature moments of true horror and our first true glimpse of this came when the unforgiving Skeksis Emperor chooses to punish Scientist for his part in the escape of Rian; the Gelfling who knew too much.
So what punishment did Emperor feel was befitting of Scientist’s crime? How does allowing a very hungry beetle to eat his eyeball sound? This is a truly gruesome and frightening moment as we watch with our hands over our own peepers as Scientists eyelids are prised open leaving him prone and vulnerable to Emperor’s “permanent discipline”.
“YOU’RE COMING WITH ME!”
Hands up if you thought quicksand would be a much bigger problem in your adult life than it actually turned out to be. There was a time when you couldn’t have a fantasy movie without quicksand, and its presence almost certainly spelt doom for anyone who was foolish enough to step into it. In the world of Age of Resistance, there is something even more terrifying than quicksand – the dreaded pit of Gobbles.
A hungry, piranha-like plant, the Gobbles appear during the first encounter between heor Rian, his father and the wild Hunter Skeksis who has been summoned to bring the Gelflings back to the Skeksis lair for punishment (i.e. death). After a brief scuffle, Rian is able to send Hunter falling into the pit, but not before Hunter grabs Rian’s father and drags him to Hell with him. It is a horrifying scene to watch these hundred hungry mouths chomping away on both Skeksis and Gelfling alike, but when Hunter leaps out from the belly of the beast we finally see how formidable this monster is going to be, and he isn’t about to let anything stop him – even death!. More on that later.
“I AM THE ASCENDANCY”
When the Skeksis and their allies the Arathim descend upon the Stonewood Clan of Gelflings we think its to exact some kind of bloody vengeance for daring to stand up to the Skeksis. But the real plan is far more frightening, as it is revealed in the closing moments of episode 7.
Instead of death, the plan here is full assimilation of the Gelflings, with their very own All-Maudra Princess Tavra leading the charge, carrying with her – literally upon her person – a small army of creatures known as Threaders that she unleashes upon Stoneywood allowing this creepy crawlies to scurry up onto the unsuspecting Gelfling’s faces and attach themselves like Facehuggers, turning the once vibrant community into mindless zombies. Even more terrifying perhaps though is the end game, as the enslaved clan slowly makes its way to the Skeksis lair to fill their larders with their own bodies in preparation for feeding time.
“I HAVE STRAPPED SCORES OF GELFLING INTO THESE VERY CHAIRS. AND I WAS EQUALLY UNMOVED BY THEIR SCREAMS”
As the helpless Gelfling’s wake from their zombie-like state, they find themselves strapped into chairs, a drooling Skeksis towering over them in readiness for the Hell that is to come. They struggle to escape their chains but there is no hope. In one final, chilling moment, a Gelfling soldier begins to plead to Scientist for mercy but is met with easily one of the most horrifying lines in the entire series: “The only mercy I have left to offer … is death”. And death follows
“THE FIBROUS VISCERA CONTINUE TO REJECT REVIVIFICATION”
When skekTEK – the now one-eyed Scientist – is gifted the carcass of an Arathim in order to create a new breed of super-soldier, he quickly begins to explore its unusual physiology. He jolts it with electricity and wonders at how the limbs of the dead creature seem to come back to life with each jolt. But quickly he becomes impatient, unable to make the decaying flesh bend to his will.
As skekTEK becomes more and more infuriated his examination increases in fervour causing the corpse in front of him to kick and contort as if it were alive – and then, with one revolting squelch, he penetrates an organ causing a thick, green liquid to spurt from the Arathim directly into his own mouth. For a moment it seems like Scientist enjoys the experience, before quickly vomiting all over the floor at his feet.
This is a true Reanimator moment for Age of Resistance and is every bit as gory and wretch-inducing as the incredible body-horror movies of the 1980s.
“I AM SKEKTEK, THE SCIENTIST! I AM A MASTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.”
It is not only the poor Gelfling who feel the wrath of the Skeksis. For years the reptilian oppressors have kept their own slaves within the castle, forcing them into sub servitude and ensuring their silence by stitching their mouths closed. So when two of these slaves, known as Gruenaks, finally decide to stand up for themselves it gives the audience a rare feeling of triumph as good finally gets one over on evil. But this moment is only fleeting. Despite their very best efforts to defeat their captor, Scientist eventually manages to regain the upper hand and begins to exact bloody and unrelenting revenge – a murder so horrific the camera has to pan away to save us from witnessing such a brutal act.
“WE. CAN. NOT. DIE.”
After escaping the Gobbles, skekMAL the Hunter finally tracks down his quarry hiding in the desert. After a near-fatal run-in with a Mystic, he drags his half-dead body back to the Castle of the Crystal barely making it to his fellow Skeksis before slumping on the ground.
Several failed attempts to revive him by draining Gelfling essence eventually lead to Mother Aughra sacrificing herself to save the remaining Gelfling, surmising that only her essence will be enough to bring skekMal back from the brink of death. Although extracting Aughra’s essence seems to be a success, it, in fact, fails to revive the now deceased Hunter causing panic among the remaining Skeksis that the lies they have spread about their own immortality may be uncovered by their enemies.
For more than an episode, the body of Hunter hangs suspended in the Castle of the Crystal as a tribute to their fallen comrade. But skekMAL isn’t dead – only dormant. This is first revealed with a quick twitch of his left hand, but any doubt it laid to rest as he quickly and suddenly bursts back to life in the laboratory of the Scientist like Frankenstein’s monster. If your small ones had managed to make it this far into Age of Resistance, then the resurrection of skekMAL – a genuine scene straight out of every slasher movie of the 1980s – may be the tipping point that has them cowering behind the sofa.
“THEY’RE RUNNING AWAY”
Of all the horrors experienced across all 10 episodes, perhaps none compares to the real horror that comes with the season finale. Much of the episode centres on the Gelfling’s last stand against the Skeksis oppressors at Stonewood, concluding with a Skeksis retreat after Deet harnasses the power of the Darkening, using it to cause Skeksis Collector to explode in a blaze of grotesque pink gooey glory.
But what feels like a triumph, like a truly happy end to the saga, only foreshadows what is to come. Any Dark Crystal fan worth their salt knows how all of this truly ends. Let us not forget that the 1982 movie doesn’t open with a Thra full of life, or happiness, or Gelfling. The war is far from over, and although Netflix and the Henson Group have given us this moment of happiness, the true conclusion is yet to come and it will be one of pain and suffering and death.
Do not be fooled. The Skeksis’ time will come. But not before they wipe out almost all life from the planet in their neverending bid for immortality.
Can you think of any more terrifying moments from the first season of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance? Let us know in the comments.