How do you encompass horror from an entire decade into one documentary?...
...Easy. Follow the example of any good slasher and make a sequel. The minds behind the incredible love letter to the ‘80s, In Search of Darkness, return with a vengeance in In Search of Darkness Part II.
Sticking to the same formula as the first documentary, writer/director David A. Weiner returns at the helm of this look back on classic and cult films such as Maniac Cop and House. Featuring an extensive list of films intercut with interviews from horror legends such as Tom Savini, Linnea Quigley, and Robert Englund, Part II continues its love for the decade, but moves to expand its spotlight to international horror.
International horror may be more well-known and easier to access now, thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Shudder, but in the ‘80s horror fans with a taste for films outside the US had to rely on word of mouth and pray their local video rental shop had a VHS available or, if they were really lucky, that the local theater would have a showing. The ‘90s and early ‘00s proved just as much of a treasure hunt. I recall having to go through pretty much the same thing even as the physical media changed from VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray. But it’s the thrill of finding that copy of a long anticipated international film in the wild that fuels the fire for many a horror fan, from the ‘80s to today.
Part II kickstarts its journey discussing horror from almost its very origins. Most working in the industry during the 1980s were inspired by films they grew up watching as a kid in the ‘50s and ‘60s. This cycle of inspiration and creation continues to this day; many filmmakers, actors, special effects artists, and the like can point to a film from the ‘80s and say, “that’s the film that inspired me”. Stuart Gordon and John Carpenter are just two examples of the impact of this cycle as they explain their inspirations in films like Re-Animator and The Thing in their respective Part II interviews.
From there the film explores horror year by year, starting with 1980. And what bigger name in ‘80s international horror is there than the legendary Dario Argento? With films like Inferno and Demons, if there’s anything to be said about his work it’s that you always know when you’re watching an Argento film. His striking use of color and cinematic artistry makes the horror onscreen seem oddly beautiful.
What I loved most about Part II was that Weiner allows each film discussed to be seen and heard. There is never the sense that one film takes precedent over another. Each entry is given the space to breathe and let the viewer experience, through sight and sound, what makes that entry a highlight of the topic year. The commentary about why each film is important in the annals of horror history is also impressively varied, with input from everyone from horror journalists to wrestling superstars.
Part II’s four-hour runtime never feels like a slog or a bore to sit through. I found myself invested from the word go, not just as a horror enthusiast but as a film lover. Hearing commentary on films I had never heard of or seen before with directors I was unfamiliar with was a real treat, and will be for anyone who loves horror, film, or even just the ‘80s.
David Weiner’s work really shows how much the genre means to him and those he interviewed for this project. In Search of Darkness Parts I & II are one of the best series of documentaries to cover an era of horror that will probably never be repeated. There is a reason horror in the 1980s is iconic and this series delivers in more ways than one on why that is.
While the 1990s weren’t as prolific as the previous decade, I would absolutely love to see Weiner cover future eras in the genre and explore how horror continues to evolve even if the stories may stay the same.
I recommend watching the entire In Search of Darkness series to any fan of horror or film in general, even if you aren’t a fan of documentaries. You will not be disappointed; it’s one of the best horror/film documentaries of 2021 and is sure to leave you reaching for the remote in search of your next thrill.
In Search of Darkness: Part II is currently available during a limited-time flash sale running from February 5th through midnight Valentine’s Day, February 14th 2021 only at 80sHorrorDoc.com.
By Kalani Landgraf
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