The Greatness Of 80s Horror!
The 1980’s was undoubtedly the most fertile time for Horror. It exploded everywhere, in mass-market paperbacks, newsstands, comic books, the movie theaters, and on home video. It was the largest growth of the genre in its history. Some would argue that better and more important films were made in previous decades, and perhaps in the decades since, but there is no arguing the sheer volume of Horror output in the 80s, nor about the amazing enthusiasm for the genre. It wasn’t seen before and certainly hasn’t been seen since. In order to explore this dynamic, filmmaker David A. Weiner has put together the definitive documentary about 80s horror, and it’s just now been released on the Shudder streaming service.
The film itself runs nearly four and a half hours, and is chocked-full of interviews and observations, as well as clips and discussions. Weiner speaks to many of the genre greats of that period, people like Doug Bradley, Tom Atkins, John Carpenter, and Barbara Crampton, just to name a (very) few and interlaces the documentary with their insights. The format is fairly simple. There is an introduction to the 80s, followed by a breakdown of each year. The breakdown highlights around half a dozen movies for the year, mostly focusing on the big hits and breakout moments, but also throwing in the occasional underground sensation, just to keep things fresh. Between each year is a segment exploring a different theme in Horror films and how they related to the 80s, subjects like the Final Girl, and Ratings, as well as SFX and many others. This keeps things fresh and from getting repetitive. And Weiner doesn’t just gloss over the years or the films. While they can’t be academically in-depth, given the scope of the project and the running time, they sure do dig in and mine some juicy morsels. There is, of course, special emphasis on the slasher titans, with nearly every Freddy, Jason, and Michael film getting coverage, but that’s to be expected. I found all of the interviews to be delightful and fun and everyone was enthusiastic. Maybe the Stuart Gordon segments were a bit more touching to me, and probably because he just recently passed, but I did love them all. Carpenter and his self-deprecating wit never grows old.
This is a film by a fan for the fans, but also a more than excellent introduction to neophytes who might be looking for a place to start when it comes to delving into this delectable decade of decadence. The 80s was filled with movies that took chances, that upped the gore, that introduced more and more complex FX, and that pushed boundaries. We get to see that illustrated in the journey this documentary takes us on. This is a film that makes you feel like you’ve been plopped down into a comfortable living room with some of Horror’s greats, and you all get to tell stories and chat about your favorite movies. It’s like a gathering of good friends sitting around and having a blast while scary movies play in the background. In Search of Darkness: A Journey into Iconic ‘80s Horror, is a nice reminder of where we came from, where we’re going, and just how important and family-like the Horror community is. This is a marvelous achievement, and sets the standard for future documentaries.