In Search of Darkness promises to be ‘the definite ‘80s horror documentary’ and after 4 hours and 19 minutes (it’s an investment!) worth of chronological commentary from the who’s who of horror, it almost lives up to its promise.
Without a doubt the documentary is a comprehensive run-through of some of the genre’s most influential films but it demonstrates what we all know already—the 1980s offered us the most intelligent, gnarly and blood-soaked cinematic offerings in the horror genre to date. Prolific directors, producers, writers, actors, special effects artists, horror hosts, stunt men and bloggers are all represented within this documentary. Disappointingly, there was a lack of costume design focus within the film but overall director David A. Weiner did an excellent job capturing the horror community spirit.
In Search of Darkness is a series of bite-size recaps of horror films, mostly American and British, released every year throughout the 1980s. Even with the colossal running time, there are a few glaring omissions from the documentary but this only further shows the sheer amount of genre-defining content produced during the decade. The format is peppered throughout with mini-themes such as VHS and the video-store, nudity in horror, collecting soundtracks and poster art. One of the reasons why I (and so many) fell in love with 1980s horror in such a big way was the gut-wrenching, blood spurting practical effects of the era. Luckily the filmmakers share my obsession with the magic of real intestines and prosthetic with incredible interviews with so many of horror’s great special effects and make-up artists with some insights into some of horror’s greatest death scenes.
The film skirts along some of the more interesting debates within the genre including the legacy of the ‘Final Girl’ with iconic actors such as Barbara Crampton, Heather Langenkamp and Caroline Williams weighing in on the use of the term. Williams also encourages a new dimension of horror, questioning where the genre will go in the future with a greater representation of LGBTQIA+ communities. With that being said, these questions deserve greater discourse and there is an apparent lack of commentary from horror scholars which I found disappointing. An inclusion of different voices would deepen the analysis of the genre but in reality the documentary does not set out to answer those questions unfortunately.
Although In Search of Darkness fails to delve deep into some of the more complex horror tropes of the 1980s, overall it is both entertaining and full of plenty of trivia for both the novice and super-fan. As with any throw-back to the 1980s, the documentary relies heavily on nostalgia and it is these personal, often hilarious anecdote’s from the horror alumni that make this documentary a pleasure to watch.
by Casci Ritchie
Casci Ritchie is an independent dress historian specialising in fashion, film and consumer cultures. Her true great loves – film and fashion – began when she watched her first film noir, The Big Sleep, as a teenager and fell in love Bacall and Bogie hook line and sinker. Some of her favourite films include Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Beetlejuice, Double Indemnity and Cry Baby. You can find her over on Twitter at @CasciTRitchie & her blog www.casciritchie.com.