Television is no longer a spectator sport. It is a marathon. With hundreds of shows and thousands of hours, it is difficult to tell what to watch and what to skip. This is where we come in. UnBinged is here to help you navigate the choppy waters of the small screen to keep you from sinking into the abyss.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance | Netflix
I don’t believe in magic. Playing cards cannot materialize without assistance. David Copperfield cannot make national landmarks disappear. Chris Angel is a glorified emo with a body wax. In other words, my heart is cold, my soul is black, and every fairy within a 10-yard radius is in mortal peril.
But watching The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, I believe. It’s as close to real magic as you can get. One part enchantment and two parts nostalgia, the Netflix series is fueled by pure immersive sorcery. The F/X team worked overtime to create a miraculous world where CGI and puppetry blend seamlessly within the well-constructed confines of the world of Thra. The artistry to create this realm is nothing short of a miracle.
In addition to stupendous visuals, Age of Resistance features a voice cast that reads like the presenters list at the MTV VMAs. The roster of talent includes the likes of Taron Egerton, Simon Pegg, Jason Isaacs, Keegan-Michael Key, Mark Hamill, Awkwafina, Mark Strong and many, many more. Almost every Gelfling, every Podling and every creature we encounter has either a stand-up special, a development deal or an indie movie in the works.
Set prior to the events in 1982’s The Dark Crystal, Age of Resistance, this one tells the story of the Skeksis rise to power, the corruption of the Crystal of Truth, and the eventual destruction of the Gelfling race. The story’s strong point is its ability to fully conceptualize the Skekis’ manipulation of their fellow hand puppets. Using deception to separate clans and kin in an effort to conquer all, the depth of their duplicity is truly vile as they stop at nothing for everlasting life, power, and youth.
There is more passion and emotion emoting from these magical marionettes than from any live-action character on Family Matters, Full House or Baywatch combined. Maybe that’s not saying much, but it sucks you in.
Still, the series is not without flaws. At times, the plot can feel like a felt version of Game of Thrones as characters from different lands sloooowwwlly make their way towards each other. The trek is made all the slower by the milquetoast nature of the Gelflings. It’s hard to follow a hero’s journey when the heroes have dull as dishwater moments. Except for the Fizzgigs. Fizzgigs friggin’ rule. I’ve wanted one since I was 6, and apparently, four decades of waiting hasn’t tempered that desire. Fizzgigs 4EVA.
In all, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a visual triumph. And while there are times the plot can move slower than George RR Martin’s ability to push out a novel, in the end, the craftsmanship and achievement of the Jim Henson Company should be recognized as some of its best artistry.
Into the Dark: Pure | Hulu
After a full year of holiday-themed horror from the good people at Blumhouse, Hulu’s Into the Dark original series ends with a twisted yet uninspired tale called Pure. Centering on Daughter’s Day (September 22), the final episode blends elements of The Handmaid’s Tale with a dash of Midsommer to mediocre effect.
Directed by Hannah Macpherson and starring Jahkara Smith (NOS4A2), McKaley Miller (Hart of Dixie) and Annalisa Cochrane (Cobra Kai), Pure centers on teen Shay as she attempts to reconnect with her estranged father Kyle at a religious retreat. As kids tend to do. The father-daughter outing places emphasis on the importance of purity, the evils of independence, and the downfall of Lilith.
Ya’ll remember Lilith, right? She had a music fair in the mid ’90s and was the focus of your college roommates’ feminist studies thesis.
In the beginning, the pic is mostly concerned with the young women forced to attend the retreat as they hang out in white frilly dresses and listen to Pastor Seth drone on about the importance of purity, Jesus and husbands. Thus, Pure reads like a cross between a messed-up episode of 7th Heaven and a Tide commercial. Then things get mildly interesting after the gals gather to summon the spirit of Lilith. Subsequently, the tone begins to shift between ghost story and a Lifetime TV movie about bad dads.
The performances are of a surprisingly high caliber given the uninspired writing, especially by the creepy menfolk, who spend a majority of their time stalking their daughters and being fucking terrible fathers. The faults of Pure lie in the fact that for a horror series, the film is never scary. There is no perceived danger for the main characters or their father figures. While most horror movies achieve scares with standard beats such as dark tones, feelings of claustrophobia, or by having a bunch of creepy shit happen to the main characters, Pure loses its momentum by not knowing where to focus the fear.
Should we be scared for Shay? Her gross dad? Her gross love interest? The gross Pastor Seth? How about the weird-ass looking CGI smiley-face Lilith? It is never clear who is dangerous and who is in danger. In the end, Pure is a movie with a message that isn’t clear on message and a scary movie that isn’t scary in the slightest. Pass.
NOS4A2 | AMC/Shudder
After spending what seems like a lifetime of watching sexy vampires hit on vapid teenagers as what passes for alternative music plays in the background, NOS4A2 offers an almost refreshing change of pace to see actual vamps as actual monsters again. Almost.
Based on the novel by Joe Hill, the big bad in NOS4A2 is not exactly a traditional vampire. He is more along the lines of a time-share salesmen, which can be equally frightening. The tale centers on Victoria “Vic” McQueen, a teen with the supernatural ability to link up to the series bad guy Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto). But the guy best known for playing Star Trek’s Spock has an agenda. You see, in order for Manx to survive, he requires sending kiddies to Christmasland, a dreamy winter wonderland that promises an eternal Yuletide. Sort of like Santa’s Village (“You can see Santa, even in the Summertime!”). But instead of cocoa and snowballs, it’s a dark place that devours the souls of the innocent, leaving children empty husks of their former selves. So, exactly like Santa’s Village.
Debuting as a summertime series and renewed for a second season, NOS4A2 is a mixed bag of a horror series that waivers between traditional horror tropes and refreshing new takes on the genre. Quinto is fascinating as the soul-sucking vamp who drives a Rolls-Royce Wraith, and the style and energy injected into the Manx character is the highlight of the series.
NOS4A2 would have probably benefited from fewer episodes and a tighter story, though. The arcs are at times as drawn out as a rubber band. But all in all, this one keeps in the spirit of Hill’s novel, even if it takes more than a few liberties with the original tale. And while NOS4A2 never gets brutal enough to get the good scares, but it does present horror fans with a new and interesting boogeyman. Now hosted on Shudder after a week-by-week run on AMC, it’s not a perfect series, but it is an entertaining binge that will put you in the Halloween mood. ’Tis the season for morbid monsters, maniacal mayhem, and apparently, the occasional high-end motor car.