Two years after the first instalment, the search for darkness continues! Director David A. Weiner is back with another entry in examining horror films in the 1980’s with In Search of Darkness Part II. The first film, while very well-received (especially from yours truly), did receive some reserved criticism.
One example is the lack of diversity within its choice of interviewees, as it featured mostly Caucasian writers, filmmakers and artists. In addition, its choice in films is also seen as narrow-minded. A majority of the films chosen in the first instalment focused on films in English-speaking countries and lacked a viewpoint on films outside of America, where of course horror films also exist. With new films, subjects and a mix of both new and returning interviewees, will In Search of Darkness Part II be as good if not more than the original?
In terms of its negatives, some of the films are not given enough time for thorough examination but onto a tougher point, the choice in interviewees on said films can be a problem. Case in point, the examination of the film The Slumber Party Massacre by Amy Holden Jones. Known as a slasher comedy written and directed by women and is told to be made originally as a parody imbued with feminist overtones, it does look very peculiar that the only person to be interviewed for such a film is a man.
In terms of its positives, everything that made the first film entertaining and informative is back. The love from the interviewees on the many films are back; the balance on the interviewees and filmmakers looking back on films and reappraising them in a prescient way is more present than ever. With films like Nightmare and The Beast Within said to be both “everything that is wrong with the horror genre” and the “nadir of the bladder effect films”, it is nice to see the documentary not delve into just a praise fest.
The stories from the interviewees who have worked on the films are as charming, informative and self-deprecating as ever. Some of the footage is noticeably shot back when the first film was being made (due to the presence of filmmakers Stuart Gordon and Larry Cohen, whom have both passed on) but thankfully, no footage has been reused or is shown to be redundant. Seeing director Joe Dante going off on the cinematic rip-offs on his film Gremlins is an absolute pleasure. The filmmakers discussing the titular creatures in The Boogens and how they basically had free reign to create them is amusing stuff. But what is also amusing is the examination of the Australian film Razorback.
While the interviewees (whom are American) lend great praise, it is known (from the documentary Not Quite Hollywood) that Australian filmmakers look on the film with spirited self-deprecation (A million-dollar film with a $10 dollar pig as described by the director, Russell Mulcahy); so the contrast in viewpoints is quite funny.
The newcomers to be interviewed are all fantastic and they all bring spark as they talk about their films they have chosen to discuss of films they have worked on. To discuss a few, the presence of Chris Jericho is a bit of a head-scratcher but he is surprisingly eloquent in his discussions on provocative films like Mother’s Day and Cannibal Holocaust. Clancy Brown is warm and inviting in his discussion of films he has worked on like Ken Russell’s The Bride. While writer/director Jackie Kong is brimming with enthusiasm as she talks about her two horror films, The Being and Blood Diner; as she talks about working conditions on-set (diverse cast and crew, arguments with producers) and her ways of pushing the envelope in the horror genre. Then there’s Geretta Geretta, who examines deep into how her role in the film Demons was a lot of hard work and getting into the differences between Italian filmmaking and Hollywood filmmaking.
The documentary also expands on serious issues like the use of sexual violence/deviance in horror and racial stereotyping. Actor Gedde Watanabe (who is in horror-comedies like Vamp and is best known for his work in Sixteen Candles) talks about the roles he has played and the cultural impact his work has had in the world. He points out that his work in Sixteen Candles has highlighted a serious flaw in Hollywood in terms of Asian-American representation while he talks about his work in Vamp as a refreshing change from all the stereotypical Asian parts he was given at the time.
But the new topics that director Weiner has come up with are the biggest factors that makes the documentary worthwhile. The one-on-one segments where the horror talent looks over their career retrospectively is a treasure trove of information. For example, Nancy Allen — who has been in loads of great films like Robocop, Carrie, Dressed to Kill and so on — is a joy to listen to as she discusses her acting method, her ways in making the characters she plays more substantial (when the scripts do not), the stresses of filming on the practical effects-laden sets and especially how she sees her character in Carrie.
Other topics include unrealized horror projects, which include a sequel to David Cronenberg’s The Fly written by Mick Garris; a project by director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna called The Shadow over Innsmouth and even as sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is a follow-up to the horror-comedy sequel written by Bill Moseley himself!
Another improvement is the examination of films outside America like the films from Italy that involve the giallo genre (with discussions on filmmakers Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava) and Hong Kong cinema gems like The Seventh Curse. Last but not least, the Japanese steampunk film Tetsuo – The Iron Man is included as well; complete with an interview from writer/director Shinya Tsukamoto.
With tons of content, more varied topics and an improved focus In Search of Darkness Part II is a worthy sequel that addresses some of the problems of the first film, branches out into more diverse viewpoints on horror and has immensely enjoyable segments that focus on horror stalwarts. Highly recommended.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
In Search of Darkness Part II is available to buy for a limited time only at https://80shorrordoc.com/.