BY CAROLYN MAURICETTE
Starring Cassandra Peterson, John Carpenter, Keith David, Heather Langenkamp, and Barbara Crampton
Written and Directed by David A. Weiner Creator
There have been extensive documentaries on specific horror films from the ’80s, including standard fare A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13th, but there hasn’t been one that goes into detail about the huge catalogue of ’80s horror films…. until now. Spawned from a Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaign, writer/director David A. Wiener fills that gap with IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS, a 4-hour deep dive into one of horror’s most influential decades.
When you watch IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS, nostalgia runs rampant. Weiner, a former journalist and executive editor of Famous Monster of Filmland Magazine from 2015-16, calls on the likes of John Carpenter, Tom Atkins, Joe Dante, Don Mancini, Heather Langenkamp, Keith David, Ken Sagoes, Barbara Crampton, Kane Hodder, Greg Nicotero, the late Larry Cohen (to whom the documentary is dedicated to), and a slew of other horror greats to talk about films year by year and their favorite moments and anecdotes from the set. It was nice to see Ken Sagoes proudly talk about his role in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS in a time where people of color were scarce in mainstream horror films, as well as Keith David whose portrayal of Childs in THE THING is such a classic role and one that put his career into high gear. It’s a shame there weren’t more female directors in the roster or more actors of color, but there was mention of Katherine Bigelow, Mary Harron and their work on NEAR DARK and PET SEMATARY.
Horror journalists Heather Wixson, Michael Gingold, James. A Janisse and Phil Nobile Jr., editor-in-chief of Fangoria Magazine, also give their takes on horror and its impact on popular culture and horror fans who would become the critics, filmmakers and film writers of today. ’80s horror helped shape how we see current horror; a litmus test we use to compare and vet the films of today, even though back then, these movies were the bane of Siskel and Ebert’s existence for the most part. ’80s horror also came about with the change in how we viewed our media, with the genesis of the video rental store and cable TV.
IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS doesn’t leave out practical effects either, arguably the most important aspect of horror in the 80s. Special effects mavericks Tom Woodruff Jr., Greg Nicotero and Mark Shostrom get into the glorious practical effects and the ingenuity required for PUMPKINHEAD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, DAY OF THE DEAD, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and many more films. The documentary captures how fond these artists are about their work because really, these films immortalize their rites of passage and keystones in their careers.
You might find the volume of information overwhelming at first because they come at you with a rapid-fire pace, but once you settle in, this documentary is a great ride. IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS is still doing the festival circuit, but it’s set to be released for home media soon. Visit www.80shorrordoc.com for more information about where it’s playing and how you can own a copy.