Creature Crypt, Week Two: The Gargoyles; Darkness

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“Creature Crypt” is a four part weekly column that spotlights two creatures from our childhood that made us in to rabid horror fans. These are the creatures that scared us, wowed us, made us cry, and made us hope they weren’t under our bed.

I really wish I could take all of the credit for discovering Disney’s “Gargoyles” television series, but in reality it was caught on TV by my brother who was an instant fan.

Thinking back, Disney and animators had a lot more confidence in their young audience to grasp larger epic narratives in the nineties, and “Gargoyles” didn’t last long.

I’m assuming it was because of low ratings, or perhaps because it was virtually impossible to market Gargoyles. It mature and complex compared to the other animated shows during that period, and had appealing characters that were toyetic but nothing else.

You couldn’t really sell Gargoyle Halloween costumes since their bodies were unusually built, and it was tough to imagine a movie without so much special effects and prosthetics. That said, “Gargoyles” belonged to a few loyal readers that loved its dark and Gothic tale of a breed of Gargoyles cursed to sleep for many years. “Gargoyles” is such a fun and unique fantasy horror series with a clan of Gargoyles you can like, no matter what. I know Goliath was the instant popular character with the kids, but I had an affection for the others in the clan, too.

It’s cool enough that the series is set in New York, and that the clan are named after boroughs in the city, but you have to appreciate their only friend was a gorgeous Part Native American/Part African American police officer who kept them secret. And their lone female in the clan who betrayed them, Demona, isn’t hard on the eyes either. While Goliath garnered much of the attention, I am a fan of Lexington and Brooklyn, two gargoyles that make up the team’s heart. I could empathize with Brooklyn’s efforts to find a mate, which led him to eventually become bitter rivals when Broadway when he falls for Golaith’s daughter Angela. I am also a big fan of Lexington who never gets enough play due to his size.

His episode with the Pack is probably my favorite episode of the series. It’s a sad commentary on the modern idea of exploitation, and naivete, and helps the Gargoyles learn that not everyone can be trusted. When Lexington goes on the war path, it’s pretty incredible to watch, and it’s a shame the animation drops off once “The Goliath Chronicles” are introduced. The Gargoyles are a fascinating clan, and their introduction through flashbacks learning about their clans and once peaceful pact with humanity is intriguing to say the least. I also love the idea that gargoyles existed all over the world, opening the door for gargoyles from foreign countries with their own characteristics.

Brooklyn’s second in command position which led him to eventually take over for Goliath whenever he was out of commission is also a source of great drama, especially when Goliath tries to stress the importance of ruling over the clan and ensuring the safety of the members. Once the day emerges, they can only sleep and are vulnerable to attack, hence the slaughter of their entire breed. The “Gargoyles” really should have been developed beyond their series, since there was so much more in their world that needed exploring. Disney really never knew what they had with this franchise, and it’s sad they still don’t.

As a kid who grew up mainly on Disney films and animated programs, I have to say, glancing at Darkness for the first time was like a shock to the system. I wasn’t horrified, or scared, so much as I was just amazed.

Not only is the make up effects absolutely stunning to look at, even decades after its initial release, but Darkness himself is a horrifying and mesmerizing character. Even with his humongous black horns, and sharp teeth, he’s a charming villain, and that’s thanks to Tim Curry. Tim Curry is one of the best character actors of all time, he’s a man who, even when you know it’s him, can disappear in to any character he plays.

As Darkness, he’s a cold and calculating monster biding his time, and waiting to re-emerge from hell once again, thanks to unicorns. Darkness is the highlight in an otherwise really solid fantasy film that takes itself very seriously. From Tom Cruise’s sullen hero, to dark and gritty world with menacing creatures, Ridley Scott outdoes himself. Darkness is not just an achievement in special effects, but in storytelling. If I could picture the physical embodiment of Satan without a cloak or facade, it’d be Darkness. He’s a part goat, demonic behemoth of a monster who strides with pure chaotic intent.

He speaks poetically about life, reality, and his urge to rise once more and will do whatever it takes to emerge from his prison. Once again, my introduction to film began with the video store, and television. Before cable, computers, and the internet, I had to watch every single movie on network television. They had commercials, were edited for time, and cut for censorship, but I was happy to just see whatever movie I could dig up. Most of the movies I watched were from the eighties, since the library in networks like WPIX and FOX were limited, and about twice a month they’d feature “Legend.”

Watching Darkness on the advertisements, with his smile, horrible fangs, slithery tongue, and dynamic horns always incited a gasp from me. Darkness is like a walking and talking nightmare, a demon of charm and wisdom who has great things in store. And though director Ridley Scott does transform Satan and the essence of evil in to a monstrous red skinned demon, Darkness is also a metaphor for the characters and the world he inhabits. He can’t die, because everyone has a darkness in them. And that’s where he resides. He’s a villain that never actually goes away, in the end.

He’s a monster that consistently re-visits my memories when I think of wonderful fantasy films and their villains. Darkness is ever lasting and immortal, but stuck in the subconscious and baser desires, and you have to love how he seems to know that, even when he’s been defeated. He’s a horrible and vicious villain that I would be petrified to meet, but you can’t help but gasp in awe whenever he’s on-screen in “Legend.”