In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic ’80s Horror Written and Directed by David Weiner
Featuring Cassandra Peterson, John Carpenter, Heather Langenkamp, Keith David, Alex Winter, Tom Holland, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Don Mancini, Larry Cohen
Runtime: 4 hours, 20 minutes
Release date: October 6, 2019 (Beyond Fest)
The ’70s were a time of shocking and visceral thrills for horror audiences, giving us era-defining classics like The Exorcist, Jaws, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Alien. The 1980s, however, was a decade of excess and that went for horror films as well. The normal expression is “less is more,” but in ’80s horror MORE was more. More blood, more nudity, more controversy, more slasher icons, more films to choose from, and more sequels. David Weiner’s phenomenal new documentary, In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic ’80s Horror, gives the decade a comprehensive overview. As someone who grew up in the late 1980s and was eased into the genre by my love of the video store horror aisles and Freddy Krueger in 1987’s A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors, this documentary hit me in all the feels. It works both as a passionate nostalgia project and a genuine look at film history.
A journey that started back on Kickstarter in 2018 ended Sunday night when David Weiner’s crowdfunded documentary premiered at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles. The epic-sized documentary clocks in at four hours and eighteen minutes, and I can honestly say it’s not long enough. Weiner got a star-studded cast of genre icons to assist with a year-by-year analysis of the craziest decade in horror. He breaks that up with deep dives into important topics such as ’80s politics in the Reagan era, the final girl trope, sex and violence, the video store revolution, and the explosion of the horror franchise. If you came of age as a horror fan in the 1980s, this is a treasure of nostalgia, blood, and practical effects. If you are a horror fan too young to remember the ’80s, then this is your visual textbook. I absolutely adored this documentary and I can’t wait to watch it again in all its four-plus-hour glory.
In Search of Darkness features a veritable who’s who of the genre. Some of the best horror directors and writers from the ’80s including “The Horror Master” John Carpenter, Tom Holland, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Don Mancini, and the late Larry Cohen are featured along with countless actors such as Heather Langenkamp, Tom Atkins, Alex Winter, and Caroline Williams. Weiner also includes a unique mix of those who covered the genre back then, like Joe Bob Briggs and Fangoria editors Tony Timpone and Michael Gingold to modern genre voices such as Blumhouse producer Ryan Turek, Slipknot lead singer Corey Taylor, and James A. Janisse of YouTube channel Dead Meat.
But the epic cast doesn’t just talk for the sake of getting you through the decade. They add insightful commentary and genuine analysis. In my interview with David Weiner, he spoke about how critical John Carpenter was of his own ’80s filmography and I learned so many interesting nuggets of information from the documentary. Did you know John Carpenter was slated to direct Firestarter (1983), but got fired because The Thing (1982) bombed? Today it’s easy to look back through rose-colored glasses at films now considered classics, like The Thing (1982) and The Fog (1980), which were picked apart and ripped by critics. Many of the most beloved films were critical and financial disasters at the time.
You also get tons of anecdotes and behind the scenes info you never knew from the casts. Some favorites include Tom Atkins talking about his character with Jamie Lee Curtis in The Fog, and Joe Dante revealing that Gizmo was actually supposed to turn into Spike before a Spielberg-ian suggestion. It was also amazing to hear Corey Taylor reminisce about running out to rent horror films and finding slashers on late night cable.
As a veteran of countless horror conventions, I know that horror fans love to interact and discuss horror with each other. We are also the most passionate fans of any film genre. We need to know everything about these movies. And this documentary leaves no stone unturned. I was sick and had worked a 14-hour day when I put this on, and I breezed through the four-plus hours. Watch this with friends, in a huge group, keep it on in the background, keep the Blu-ray in the player. This is guaranteed to be a documentary horror fans revisit time and time again.
With the film’s premiere at Beyond Fest, it is now available at for sale at 80shorrordoc.com, where you can purchase the Blu-ray or DVD for $59.99 and only until midnight on Halloween! Ordering now will get you the documentary by early November with your name personalized in the credits, a movie poster, unique pin and postcards, and the digital download. You can read my full interview with writer/director David Weiner here.