[Beyond Fest 2019] 'In Search of Darkness' shines a loving light on the films that shaped the horror genre
After a long and arduous journey from idea to conception- In Search Of Darkness, written/directed by David A. Weiner, finally played on a big screen at this year's Beyond Fest...
...80s horror is a singular and unique beast. For the genre, the decade itself was a time where art was catching up to life at increasing speeds. This documentary takes a deep dive into this magical period in horror movie-making history.
Everything and everyone relative to the horror scene is in this documentary. In Search of Darkness is packed with notable talking heads (with 45+ contributors), from acclaimed critic and host, Joe Bob Briggs, actress Heather Langekamp, all the way to filmmaker and owner of Troma, Llyod Kaufman.
In fact, if they were a part of the 80s horror scene, or had some influence on the genre in front of or behind the camera, they are showing up at least once to share experiences or reflect on the iconic decade.
The documentary's timeline starts off right in 1980 and focuses on two films: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and John Carpenter's The Fog. From there, the movie covers every landmark horror film or franchise up until Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan. However, though this film covers a ton of movies, from the obscure to the well known, not a single foreign horror film is mentioned. This seems like an oversight, which may just be due to an already over-stuffed documentary or perhaps an 80s foreign horror documentary is in the works.
The 4 and a half hour documentary is strong, but boy, oh boy, it's long. In so many interviews, various talking heads tread the same ideas over and over, all from slightly different perspectives. It left this viewer thinking, how many opinions do we need on Jason Takes Manhattan? That said, even with its daunting runtime, horror fans will find this documentary filled to the brim with so much to love.
One wonders if this film would have been better served by being released in sections, as after watching the first hour, some of the hidden nuggets or fresh perspectives on a certain film were lost as the documentary moves on to the next year of the decade. This unfortunate device keeps repeating itself hour after hour. This would have been much more compelling as a mini-series. It would have been so cool to see this on a streaming service like Shudder or Netflix where perhaps it could have been even longer. Maybe breaking down each year in an hour. That said, this documentary was partially funded by fans and anyone who put any amount of money into it is absolutely getting a return on their patronage.
Technically speaking, this is a phenomenal looking and sounding documentary. The lighting and use of graphics and interspersed footage is on par with some of the finer documentary films of our time.
The care and time spent finding the right voices to talk about each film is very evident and impressive. It is much needed for such an extensive decade retrospective. It's not uncommon in documentaries to have a moment of "this person has no idea what they are talking about" and that doesn't happen here. While a lot of the interviews provide opinion-based commentary, it's refreshing to see over four hours dedicated to providing an intellectual and articulate summary of this bizarre and magical decade for horror films.
So many iconic characters and franchises came out of the 80s, and that is a testament to how meaningful the decade is and was to horror fans. In Search Of Darkness does a remarkable job capturing the spirit of the time and is at once a celebration and critique of the genre. There is perhaps a bit too much to digest in one viewing but this film will definitely give any horror fan a reason to celebrate and revisit the insights In Search of Darkness reveals about this transformative decade for horror filmmaking.
This documentary may be about a specific time in film industry history. Yet, In Search of Darkness will absolutely remind you that Horror movies are forever.
By Justin Drabek
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