VERSUS THE SCARECROW EPISODE 3: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE PSYCHOTRONIC. I decided to challenge myself and really open the doors of my film knowledge and take on “The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide”. It’s 808 pages of movies and movie reviews from some of the most knowledgeable movie people you don’t know. It’s a book put together by a staff that praises, and destroys, some of our favorites and not so favorites. You can read the rest of my series here.
Just a quick refresher: each episode, I’m going to tackle three films from three different categories. Two films will be films I’ve never seen before and one will be one I’ve seen before or own. For the new films, well, new to me, I’m going to review them like a typical FTS review using the TOAST Rating system. But, for the films I’ve seen, I’m going give a quick paragraph or two about why I like or don’t like the film. We’ll try to include the poster and trailer for each film. “….and here. We. Go!”
What is “Psychotronic”? It’s what Scarecrow Video defines as a combination of Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy. This week I’m running the gambit of those genres by looking at The Dark Crystal, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (I’m not kidding), and what’s become a surprising favorite of mine; Alien. First up…
The Dark Crystal (1982) Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Written by: Jim Henson and David Odell Starring: Jim Henson, Kathryn Mullen and Frank Oz. IMDB says: ”On another planet in the distant past, a Gelfling embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of a magical crystal, and so restore order to his world.”
What started off as mild intrigue quickly turned into me asking myself multiple times aloud “Why am I still watching this?” Boredom struck a few minutes after the first fifteen minutes and as I predicted plot point after plot point, I tried to reason with myself. Okay, this movie isn’t for my age bracket. It’s a live action film where no human actors appear because the entire story is acted out by puppets. Not just ANY puppets though, Jim Henson’s puppets. So I knew, and kept reminding myself, that I was watching quality craftsmanship. I was watching a team that spent months preparing massive sets and rehearsing movements to give off the most lifelike and genuine performances that you could get using practical effects. I was able to appreciate that. But when the story falls through and the acting becomes less and less enjoyable, you start to find other reasons to enjoy the film. I had a hard time doing that. The story, explained surprisingly well with background information through opening film narration, is about a boy (named Jen) who is tasked with finding a shard and then destroying a dark crystal that is being held by a bird-like lizard race for uses of evil. It’s a Tolkein-esque tale that leaves everyone wanting more. Be it more character development, more action, more sprawling landscapes, and, well, more everything. The ending also wraps up pretty quickly with an ending I didn’t agree with (because it’s a kids movie) and it sends you on your way just as quickly as you arrive.
This wasn’t, and still isn’t a typical Henson film. I knew better than to expect anything like the Muppets, but I still found this to be surprisingly dark for the target audience it was after. Of all my gripes and groans there is one thing that worked: the soundtrack. It isn’t spectacular nor is it always present, but the times it’s there, it works with the scenes in adding a few layers to the characters that the writing seems to be missing. I’m sure this film is a cult classic amongst those who grew up watching this film, but sadly, there was no magic or fantasy to be found for me. It’s available to stream instantly, but I wouldn’t waste your time.
Check back tomorrow for my review of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter and then again on Wednesday for the conclusion of episode three with my thoughts on Alien. And if you’re interested in more, you can find the rest of the Versus The Scarecrow series here.