While many people fear the darkness, some search for it.
“In Search of Darkness” documents and analyzes the history and impact of horror films in the 1980s. Featuring a slew of absurd films ranging from blood-soaked vampire infestations to mischievous little Christmas-ruining goblins, the 1980s proved to be one of the most iconic breeding grounds for horror. For the film’s four-hour plus runtime, director David A. Weiner compiled an impressive roster of interviewees and archival footage to deliver the ultimate masterclass in ‘80s horror.
The main reason behind the immensely educational and fascinating content of this extensive film is the sheer star power of its interviewees. Despite being crowdfunded on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, Weiner manages to bring together a plethora of horror greats such as directors John Carpenter (“Halloween”), Joe Dante (“The Howling”) and Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator”). As the film dives through the vast library of ‘80s horror, the directors offer firsthand commentary on their own films. Such instances include Dante offering insight into the complex werewolf effects in “The Howling” and Carpenter discussing the regenerative car scene from “Christine.”
For such a long documentary, “In Search of Darkness” surprisingly manages to keep the narrative consistently engaging. Among the obscene amount of “talking head” shots, Weiner and his team display countless film clips and archive footage to enhance the narrative. High-quality footage from horror films such as “Night of the Creeps,” “The Stuff” and “The Lost Boys” help provide visually engaging examples. Each of the clips perfectly emulate just enough of each film’s tone to drive thematic elements across.
Another element that keeps the documentary consistently fresh is its visually appealing editing and animation style. As opposed to just cutting between discussions on different films, each segment is divided by a slow transition that flies past several classic horror film covers, before landing on the one that will be discussed. It’s a fun gimmick that keeps the audience guessing about which film will be covered next. Additionally, the documentary sports nostalgic ‘80s style fonts and colors. To introduce discussion topics, words onscreen spark to life in red neon. A delicious ‘80s-style synthesizer score colors the documentary, providing a lingering retro feel throughout the interviews, transitions and footage.
The documentary is a phenomenal piece of educational filmmaking, although it is not without a few flaws. During several of the interview sequences, camera angles and shots abruptly change, resulting in awkward visual moments. It is a useful tactic to keep a talking head a bit more interesting, but it is overused and misplaced in the documentary.
The main issue with the film is its unfortunate lack of diversity. For a film that features everything from horror filmmaking legends to common horror journalists to hardcore fans, it definitely feels a bit white-washed. It is important for a documentary set on capturing the spirit of a decade’s worth of genre film to embrace diverse viewpoints.
“In Search of Darkness” is a phenomenal horror history lesson for aspiring filmmakers and an extensive bloodbath of 1980s nostalgia for an
4.5 bloody VHS tapes out of 5