Released: 13th October 2019
Seen: 10th March
I may have mentioned it once or twice (or as many times as I am legally permitted) but I love a good horror documentary. Give me a documentary on how a horror film came to be and I’m a happy boy. The Crystal Lake Memories documentary, all 6+ hours of it, remains my favourite film documentary of all time and a recent film Memory: The Origins of Alien was a great look at one of the greatest horror films of all time. The problem with this kind of documentary though is that it only ever seems to talk about just one film and some days you just want to talk about an entire genre of film… enter In Search Of Darkness, a crowdfunded documentary celebrating one of the greatest decades for horror.
Quick bit of disclosure, I put 20 bucks towards the campaign to make this film a reality and my name does show up in the end credits. Sure, it’s only 20 bucks so basically I bought a copy before they made the film so on a very real level it’s probably not even worth bringing up but Crowdfunding has a different feel to it than buying a regular ticket, plus my name does technically pop up at the end of this thing so I figure it can’t hurt to mention it before getting to the meat of this.
The documentary is a jaunty 4-and-a-half-hour trip through the horror hits of the 80s, year by year with stops in between each segment to talk about key elements of the genre as a whole, like the 3D phenomenon that touched several major franchises or how essential the soundtracks were to creating the legendary scares that these films were associated with. It acts as a celebration of one of the most influential periods in horror, gleefully flipping off those who looked down on the genre at the time and makes a great argument for these films to be treated like high art. Sometimes we get to talk about the inventive brilliance of things like Re-Animator, sometimes they talk about the glorious weirdness of Killer Klowns from Outer Space but each film is explored to explain what makes it special and what it meant to that decade of horror.
This film is a great little time capsule piece, making a record that future generations can look back when they want a glimpse at just what made this period of horror cinema so special. While, obviously, they can’t touch on every horror film that happened throughout the decade because otherwise the film would take forever to get through, it does run through several of the major ones that most people will know while also introducing them to some gems that might’ve been lost to time. One problem with this is that they do lean on franchises to fill time without really adding anything more than just “Well, this sequel was nuts and stupid”, while missing the chance to talk about other movies. I noticed this particularly in the 1988 portion when they talked about the Friday, Nightmare, Phantasm, Halloween and Hellraiser sequels (several of those series had been brought up at least four or five times before this) but doesn’t talk about films like Monkey Shines, Serpent and the Rainbow, Maniac Cop or Beetlejuice. This happens with a lot of the film, a lot of focus on covering multiple entries in the biggest series to the detriment of skipping a lot of weird interesting films and it can get a little repetitive, but it never feels like it was intentionally leaving them out. More likely it’s due to them focussing on the films that their interview subjects made, a restriction born out of who was available to talk to them but it still would’ve been nice to maybe not talk about every Friday the 13th movie from the 80s.
It makes up for this with some great interviews from people who made the films, historians of the genre and fans. There’s no time spent trying to defend the genre because it doesn’t need defending, this is a joyful celebration of a period of film history that’s often looked down on. It’s a bunch of people offering up a buffet of badass films and giving you a sample of everything so you know what to look for. There’s just a little bit of everything thrown in here, making it a really good place to start if you’re curious about this period in film history and want a long list of suggestions for what to watch. You definitely get the sense this was made by fans who love this genre and are just giddy to rattle through the coolest things they remember from that period in film and it makes the 4 hour sit a lot more pleasant to get through, though fortunately the film is clearly broken up so if you just have a hankering to see what cool horror films came out in 1985 it’s easy to skip to that section without losing track of anything.
In Search Of Darkness is probably the most content heavy documentary one could hope for about this specific period in genre history. An absolute must see for fans of the genre, it’s also a great starting point for those who want a hint of just how weird this decade got (it got shunting weird… and if you know about the movie Society, you know how weird that is). Absolutely worth hunting down when you can. Currently it’s only available via their website and only in limited bursts, I know the next one happens on, of course, Friday the 13th for a weekend (so within a few days of this review going up) so if you’re curious, grab a copy and enjoy.