It takes a certain amount of moxy to bill your film as the “definitive” anything, but in this case In Search of Darkness may well be the closest thing to a definitive look at 80’s horror movies that we’re ever likely to see. Clocking in at an eye-watering 4 hrs and 18 minutes long, it looks at each year in turn, focusing on some of the standout films of that year as well as discussing some specific aspects of the genre such as the upsurge in the use of sex/nudity in the 80s, the importance of sound and music in horror, and the importance of having eye-catching box art for your VHS to stand out from all the others on the shelves of your local video store.
The product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, writer-director David A. Weiner has managed to pull together a veritable who’s who of 80’s horror talent such as genre stalwart Bill Moseley (Repo!, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th series), Keith David (The Thing, They Live, Pitch Black), Jeffrey Combs (Re-animator, Star Trek, From Beyond), Alex Winter (Lost Boys, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Tom Atkins (The Fog, Maniac Cop), Doug Bradley (Hellraiser series) and so many, many more.
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Along with this collection of iconic talent are assorted personalities and commentators such as James Rolfe (The Angry Video Game Nerd), Corey Taylor (lead singer of Slipknot), John Bloom (The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs) and many more. Anyone who has seen one of the many, many “Greatest X of the X” (insert whatever you like for X) shows that do the rounds on Channel 4 in the UK and the like will be familiar with the format. A brief bit about the film, then a discussion of the production, the film, reception, etc, and then on to the next.
Even at a staggering 258 minutes in length, it never feels like a slog to watch, never bogs down. It lingers on each film just long enough for you to get a flavour for it and then off it goes to the next. It takes the time to not just highlight the big name films – Halloween, Christine, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and so forth – it’s careful to highlight the films that might deserve a bit more love like Sleepaway Camp, Society or The Howling.
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There are some odd omissions. The Terminator and Aliens are both conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps they aren’t considered horror enough for inclusion here? There are also no films from anywhere other than the UK and the US, which is a shame as during the 80s Japan gave us the bizarre Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Sweet Home, Evil Dead Trap and dozens more, though during the 80s very few of those ever made their way to Western audiences. No love either for Italian horror legends such as Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento. No Demons? No Tenebrae, The Church, or City of the Living Dead? Shame. That said, it makes sense they would concentrate on more “mainstream” horror, and even that took nearly four and a half hours to cover!
This documentary is a delight to watch, filled with anecdotes, tales from behind the scenes, movie clips, and discussion, with every actor, director, writer or pundit showing their genuine love and passion for the genre. Every film, no matter the budget or critical reception is analysed with the same warmth and respect, gently poking fun at some of the more egregious excesses of the 1980s.
Any self-respecting horror fan, no matter their age, should watch this documentary. Newer fans may well find gems they’ve missed, while for long term fans there are still fascinating insights to be found.
In Search of Darkness is out now, on limited release DVD and Blu-ray.