“Someone said the movie’s old…well it’s not old if you haven’t seen it.” – Tom Savini
When I reviewed 2019’s In Search of Darkness last year, while I had my gripes, I found it to be a truly epic affair, inarguably one of the most comprehensive retrospectives on its niche. That niche being the explosion of horror in the 1980s, with a plethora of iconic classics, notable subgenres, and numerous legends, both from behind and in front of the camera, born from the decade in question. And much to my delight, 2020’s In Search of Darkness: Part II surpassed its predecessor in every way imaginable, and you can thank one key, crucial step in making it possible: a diversified filmography.
While I could excuse the lack of archival interviews from late legends of the genre like Wes Craven and George A. Romero for the obvious rights reasons, as well as the odd omission of details here and there, one of the greatest sore spots for director David Weiner’s debut documentary was its Anglo-centric approach. It spent its titanic four-hour runtime practically chronicling every single Stephen King picture and franchise entry in all of Creation, to the point of highlighting sequels in lieu of inaugural outings. While deep cuts like Fade to Black were given a spotlight, it all came at the expense of international horror and the chance to highlight even more deep cuts. Perhaps the mistake was declaring itself a “definitive” journey into the era and only taking us into shallow waters, when in fact its focus is more on the mainstream efforts.
I am pleased to say that is certainly not the case with Part II. Weiner broadens the scope marvelously, highlighting plenty of Italian horror, undersung grindhouse gems, and even a nod to Asian horror in its covering of films like The Seventh Curse and Tetsuo: The Iron Man. When coupled with its diverse array of franchise sequels such as Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Halloween 5, it is safe to say that Part II crafts a far more comprehensive portrait of the genre than its predecessor.
Also beefed up are the amount of talking heads. Living legends like Robert Englund, Tom Savini, and Shin’ya Tsukamoto are able to give their two cents along the already monstrous returning roster. The insights provided by with immaculate combination of cast, crew, and retrospective interviewees, with people like video critic Brandon Tenold and pro-wrestler Chris Jericho joining the likes of Cinemassacre’s James Rolfe as Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, make for an impeccable, multi-faceted examination of the era.
If there was one thing that bugged the living hell out of me however (and do know that this is a really petty nitpicky thing), it was the organization of the films showcased. Who’s bright idea was it to organize by American release dates?
Because, for myself at least, it was a mind-boggling experience to sit and watch Tenebrae, a film objectively released in 1982, counted among the 1984 lot, and 1986’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer counted among the 1989 lot. Mind you, this isn’t an “OMG this movie is ruined for me!!1!” type of clerical error, it’s more of a mild nuisance. Considering how much more international in scope the film was, I don’t think anyone would have held it against the filmmakers for organizing by formal theatrical release dates in their native countries. Hell, they used the original years in the credits!
That objectively miniscule detail aside, I recommend In Search of Darkness: Part II to horror hounds and grindhouse ghouls without reservation. It does everything the first does, but bigger and better. More people, more movies, and a truly comprehensive depiction of the decade in question. If you have the Herculean stamina, try watching both back-to-back for a complete revelatory experience when it comes to immersing yourself in one of cinema’s most terrifying decades. And thanks to the horror streaming service Shudder (#NotSponsered), you actually can as both installments in Weiner’s devilish duology are currently streaming on the platform.
And lastly, one massive, heartfelt shout-out to everyone involved in the making of both installments of In Search of Darkness, and to people at CreatorVC at large. You fine folks are helping to keep the history and legacy of genre cinema and entertainment alive for generations to come, and as someone who is somewhat of an amateur historian in the realm of film history on a broader scale, these are seriously useful tools in examining trends and exploring niches. You are doing the Lord’s work and I wish you all the best in future, especially with In Search of Tomorrow and FPS coming down the pike.