In Search of Darkness (2019)
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: David Weiner
Executive Producers: Robin Block and Damien Jackson
Writer: David Weiner
Release Date: November 29, 2019
Tom Atkins as himself
Doug Bradley as himself
John Bloom as Joe Bob Briggs
John Carpenter as himself
Joe Dante as himself
Rating = 4/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
The eighties were a big decade for horror movies, changing the game permanently in many ways and garnering more controversy than horror movies ever had in the past. In Search of Darkness (2019) sought to look at this decade specifically and its standout pieces and trends, with the help of some of the people who created these iconic moments and movements.
This documentary uses clips from various horror movies from what would probably be considered PG or PG-13 today (for example, The Monster Squad) to the goriest the era had to offer. Each movie, when discussed in-depth, is introduced with its poster, so you’ll have a little warning before you actually see any clips.
The Grave Review
In Search of Darkness is a thorough look at an incredibly influential decade of movies. It hits the movies you would expect—The Shining, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, The Fly, and so on—but does not shy away from lesser-known or remembered movies—Night of the Comet, Company of Wolves, Cat People, and more—either. No one movie feels as if it gets more attention based on its popularity status either, which is nice to see. It also gets its information about these movies straight from the horse’s mouth, featuring an impressive cast of actors, actresses, critics, and crews that were directly involved with or are extremely knowledgeable with all of the featured films.
The documentary takes a logical course, going through eighties movies year by year. It’s easy to just jump into, even if you don’t know the decade for its movies. Occasionally, it breaks out of these compartmentalized sections to look ahead to a director’s later films that may have improved on concepts or effects, or to compare one film to another in other way. If it looking to a movie from the eighties, there may be a brief look, but you can count on still getting that more detailed look at the later movie during the retrospective on its release year. It is always clear what movie is being discussed, as the movie poster is shown at the start of the discussion and clips that are used are always identified with on-screen captions.
Within these year sections, there are also interludes which have interviewees talking about trends in eighties horror films or standout concepts. Special effects, sound design, and changing and developing gender roles in horror films throughout the decade are just a few things that got a special moment of documentary time. This really made the documentary stand out from other horror documentaries because horror fans—any movie fan, really—will have their favorite movies, but will also have specific components they really love. Sound design isn’t my thing, but the look at special effects was my perfectly steeped cup of tea. And even though there were discussions of things like composing and sound design which isn’t really a particular interest for me, the conversation was still really interesting. Each discussion balances a quick description/intro to the subject with quick in-depth examples, especially with sound design, superbly.
The team assembled to share their thoughts on these movies was impressive as well: over 45 contributors had a part in In Search of Darkness. Above, we just listed five members of the cast list, which includes actors, actresses, makeup and special effects crew members, YouTubers, and even alternate horror icons like Elvira (Cassandra Peterson). There were even clips of Roger Ebert deriding movies which, of course, changed the horror game and are highly regarded today. Although nearly everyone has deep insights or interesting anecdotes to tell, the standout could very well be the actor Doug Bradley, who at one point describes his character Pinhead (Hellraiser) as being one who would fit in at a garden party with the likes of Oscar Wilde and company. Certainly, though, there are many memorable, quotable quips.
The only downside to this documentary is its length, which breaks the four-hour mark and makes it tough to take in in just one sitting. At the same time, despite this length, the documentary feels like a tease, because you want to stay immersed in the realm of eighties horror once you’ve gone so deeply into it. Would a companion book be too much to ask for? I’d like some more, please!
The other downside was that this documentary was only available to order during the month of October 2019—so if you missed out, it won’t be available for you to order or stream now. Or will it? When I reached out to the In Search of Darkness Twitter account to ask about future releases, I got the response that “The film has been taken off sale. For now…” So, although it may be frustrating to hear that this is a fantastic documentary and well worth the watch for any fan of eighties horror when you missed the window of opportunity, it seems as though there’s the possibility that with enough noise and interest, it will go on sale again. For such a thorough, expansive, and genuinely enjoyable documentary, it’s well worth the wait for a second release.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives In Search of Darkness (2019) four graves out of five graves.
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