The Definitive ’80s Horror Documentary. In Search of Darkness (2019) – movie review

Last year, writer/director David A. Weiner launched a campaign on Indiegogo asking horror fans to support a very ambitious project, a definitive documentary about 80s horror cinema. More than 14 months later, and with the help of tons of supporters (including me), In Search of Darkness has finally arrived in the houses of the many people who pre-ordered it on either Blu-Ray or DVD.

I have to be completely up-front here: I took part in a so-called “focus group” set up by the producers and creators of In Search of Darkness, with the task of helping the post-production phase of this documentary. Simply put, I was asked to point out mistakes, inconsistencies, and give overall opinions on what worked and what didn’t. Despite my personal involvement with the project, I assure you I tried to stay as objective as possible with this review.

In short, this horror documentary is an exploration of 80s horror movies through the perspective of actors, directors, producers and SFX people who made them, such as John Carpenter, Joe Dante, Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, Bill Mosley, Lloyd Kauffman and many more. The film is divided in segments, each one correspondent to one year, intertwined with sub-chapters, so to speak, that assess topics such as final girls, practical effects, legacy…

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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My review is also available on IMDb – In Search of Darkness (2019)

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In Search of Darkness is meant to be a documentary for the fans, from the fans, which is why I’d strongly recommend it to every single horror fanatic I know, especially those of you who have a soft spot for 80s horror. Despite being entirely crowdfunded, this horror documentary showcases a very high level of professionalism, which comes from the expert presentation of interviews and clips. Also, it is commendable how many horror icons agreed on the project, and it’s fascinating to see them speak about their own horror classics or about films from the 80s that influenced them.

This is a film that’s not meant to have a creative or visually striking flair: the point is just to illustrate 80s horror cinema in its entirety and to have people, who worked in those movies, talking about them. In fact, one of the major complaints I have with In Search of Darkness is that it ignores foreign cinema almost completely. I believe that, in the 80s, American horror cinema was the best in the world, but it’s still disappointing not to see Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Norman Warren, Andrzej Zulawski and others being covered in the documentary: I feel like an overview of 80s horror cinema (which is what they wanted to achieve) can’t be complete without classics like Possession, Tenebrae, The Beyond, Strange Behaviour, Suddenly in the Dark

Still, if what you look for is icons you love speak about popular movies you adore, In Search of Darkness won’t let you down.

As I said, every popular and influential American horror film from the 80s is covered, though some of them get more screen time (which provides the viewer with more insightful information) and some others are briefly touched upon. It’s worth mentioning that every interviewee provided interesting content to the documentary, with people like Carpenter and Dante being very upfront about every single question they were asked.

Unfortunately, in most cases the discussion about specific movies focused solely on the impact of the picture or specific iconic scenes, whereas I feel like the documentary would’ve benefitted a lot from an in-depth analysis of the technical aspects that made a certain sequence or an entire film memorable. When this happens (like in the case of An American Werewolf in London or Phantasm II), the documentary becomes immediately more interesting, as it tackles aspects not many horror fans might know about.

In conclusion, I do believe In Search of Darkness to be mandatory horror viewing for fans of the genre and fans of 80s horror in particular: for a 4-hour-20-minute-long documentary, it never feels boring (sometimes it’s repetitive, though) or long, it’s always engaging and captivating. There are some things that I would’ve liked to see done differently, and the documentary made a mistake not considering foreign classics, but the overall impact is still there and I hope many fans will enjoy this passion project that purely comes from a place of love for horror.

In Search of Darkness                      7/10

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