What does IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS offer that hasn't already been said? Virtually nothing. It counts down the decade, year by year, looking at some of the most provocative and influential titles of the time. A bunch of talking heads discuss their involvement with specific titles, while others recollect their own experiences as young viewers. It is essentially the same old format that we've seen so many times, only this one runs at a whopping 4 HOUR running time.
Retrospective horror documentaries peaked with 2000's The American Nightmare as far as I'm concerned, and few have contributed beyond what that film had to say. Mark Hartley's Not Quite Hollywood and Andrew Monument's Nightmares in Red, White and Blue are two examples of films that did, indeed, reach beyond the common knowledge of most fans, however most other docos have simply retraced the same steps.
Before passionate genre fans come at me, it must be said that I am not referring to film-specific documentaries, of which there are countless beauties. I am a staunch advocate of those, however when it comes to so-called “comprehensive” genre-broad entries, they have become little more than gratuitous fan-service, offering what I can best liken to as mass-audience-jerk-circles.
IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS produces a good amount of talking head subjects to help its narrative, however they've not been chosen wisely. Those who are welcome include the likes of Brian Yuzna, Joe Dante, John Carpenter, Caroline Williams, and Mick Garris amongst others. Credit must also be given to director David A Weiner for bringing fresh faces to the table with the likes of Fangoria editor-in-chief Phil Nobile Jr, Ryan Turek from the Blumhouse stables, Heather Wixon of The Daily Dead and Fright Rags founder Ben Scrivens. Their participation helps to break up the monotony of the arduous running time, albeit only slightly. Others who have not been selected thoughtfully are Ken Sagoes (actor, Elm Street 3 & 4), Diana Prince (actress, Bunnyman Vengeance) and James A Jenisse (Dead Meat webseries), with the former two offering little to no insight and limited knowledge and the latter being an overly theatrical, ego-driven, try-hard flog. His voice permeates the majority of the film and is mostly in audible contrast from all other participants, and Weiner lacks the co-ordination and rhythm to edit his screen time effectively. The camera, all too often, lingers beyond the final statements of many players, leading to awkward moments before cutting to subsequent guests.
Looking beyond the negatives there are still plenty of positives to take away from IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS. For one, it was crowd funded and credit should always be given to those who workout outside of the formal funding bodies. Secondly, it is an impassioned exercise, which celebrates a mutual love for its subject. Even though it is clunky and poorly constructed, it attempts to delve as deep as possible (something that Weiner would have achieved with more success had he not focused on the multiple sequels of franchises, or referenced the same titles at multiple points throughout the film). And finally, the fact that it is destined to be a much easier watch on home-entertainment, as opposed to a marathon theatrical sitting, can only bode in its favour. With the benefit of stop and pause, this documentary would be a tolerable exercise.
Nevertheless, as mentioned, IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS is a blatant fan-service, which offers nothing that hasn't already been said. Its target audience will already know the stories being recollected and will not be taking away anything new from its narrative. In turn, with its 4-hour running time I cannot imagine new audiences taking to it in a hurry either.