What is the greatest decade in horror movie history? A strong argument can be made for many. A new four hour documentary from Shudder makes a cast for the 1980s being the best of all time. While it never explicitly states the 80s are the best decade of scary films, after watching In Search of Darkness, a person could not be faulted for thinking it was.
The first thing that has to be mentioned is the length of the documentary. At almost four and a half hours, it is a comprehensive look at 80s horror. When a film goes that long, pacing is very important. This is never an issue with In Search of Darkness. The subject may seem to have limited appeal, but it works on multiple levels. Whether a person is a fan of horror, movies in general, or just needs their nostalgia fix, the documentary works. It is a long watch that never feels like it.
Ironically, though it covers each year in detail, it sometimes feels as if more could have been discussed. Obviously, the big franchises like Friday the 13th are discussed. It seems like a year of the decade did not go by without a new movie starring Michael Meyers or Freddy Krueger. Where In Search of Darkness misses out is on the smaller horror films. Maverick filmmaking and risk taking are not given the same time as the major releases. What makes this more frustrating are there are movie posters that tease releases like Fade to Black.
This is not to say the documentary was negatively impacted. There is some repetition in the film, but that is exactly what ended up happening in 80s horror. In Search of Darkness revisits the favorites everyone loved while also explaining why they kept coming back for more. This includes an interesting talk about turning horrible villains into toys for children.
While In Search of Darkness takes a year by year look at the decade, it is also divided into categories. Subjects such as politics, VHS, and improved special effects are all a part of the documentary. This does cause some backtracking at times, but it also paints a picture of the 80s. It is clear that horror was willing to take risks and touch on many topics.
One of the most interesting sections is on the final girl. Many people have talked about the impact of women in horror and how their standing increased in the 80s. In Search of Darkness revisits the trope. It never understates the importance of the character while some question if maybe the final girl has been given overrated. It is one of the more fascinating parts of the documentary.
In Search of Darkness is filled with interviews. It is a combination of genre icons like John Carpenter and Kane Hodder, familiar faces like Darcy the Mail Girl, and some surprises like James Rolfe (the Angry Video Game Nerd). What this does is give a variety of opinions and points of view. This perfectly feeds into one of the points of the film: horror fans come from all walks of life.
Documentaries about film can have a high barrier of entry. They may only be for fans of a particular genre or expect the audience to already have a good amount of knowledge going in. In Search of Darkness does a good job of letting everybody in on the fun. Genre fans will get a kick out of hearing about their favorites. Those who do not care for horror will be interested by the many interviews and clips show. This the rare documentary that will appeal to all viewers.
In Search of Darkness premieres July 31 on Shudder.