Review by Sean Boelman
Delivering what is arguably one of the most thorough discussions of the horror genre to ever hit the screen, David A. Weiner’s In Search of Darkness is a movie made by fans for fans. Perhaps a tad too long, but entirely captivating nevertheless, this is an absolute treat for anyone interested in the history of film’s most divisive genre.
In the documentary, Weiner takes a deep dive into the canon of horror from the 1980s, discussing how some of the most iconic movies from the era were made and why they had such an impact on the horror world and greater film community. While there are plenty of documentaries about this topic, the broad scope of the material and wealth of subjects interviewed make this stand out.
Arguably the biggest issue with the documentary is its length. At a daunting nearly four and a half hours in length, the target audience will largely be limited to pre-existing horror cinephiles because of the time commitment it takes for a full watch. That said, the segmented structure, each movie being discussed getting ten minutes or less of time, is conducive to watching it in parts.
That said, the documentary does a very good job of entertaining the audience. Some of the material will already be known to aficionados, like an exploration of the special effects involved in filming werewolf transformations, but the authentic and eager perspective from which the information is coming will be fascinating to viewers.
The main draw of the documentary will likely be the interviews that Weiner was able to conduct with some of the most prolific filmmakers in horror. Some of the best moments feature Joe Dante (Gremlins) giving some juicy tidbits, whether about a film that is his own or a production with which he was familiar.
There is definitely a significant focus here on special effects within the genre, allowing it to serve as an important reminder of the effort that goes into filmmaking from all parties. It’s rare to get a behind-the-scenes look like this that is both so in-depth and amusing, especially in regards to movies whose history is already so well-known.
Weiner uses a combination of interviews, footage from the films in question, and archive materials to create his essay, and it’s quite effective. Weiner and editor Samuel Way have a phenomenal command of how to create a sense of rhythm, making the documentary feel much shorter than it is, and the music by Weary Pines adds another level of style to it.
In Search of Darkness is very much rooted in niche appeal, but for those who fall within that niche, it’s definitely worth a watch. If nothing else, horror fans can use it as an opportunity to prepare their re-watch list for a Halloween that will otherwise be less exciting than usual.
In Search of Darkness streams on Shudder beginning July 30.