Review by Kelly
In Search of Darkness: Part II is the direct continuation and the same retro vibe as Part 1, released October 6th, 2019. However, where Part I was a love letter for 80s horror made by horror fans, Part II is for the hardcore, dedicated fans. Part II dives into all the hidden gems and indie freak films that were missed in Part I, and for this I am appreciative. Though there were many mainstream hits in the 1980s, predominantly our horror franchises such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween, there was even more low budget, creative fare, that the casual viewer would evidently miss. More cult classics and exploitation films are discussed such as Humanoids from the Deep (1980), The Beast Within (1982), Ghoulies (1985), Night Beast (1982) and Mother's Day (1980).
We see some familiar faces of 80s horror fame such as Cassandra Peterson (Elvira), Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and journalists Heather Wixson (Daily Dead), and Phil Nobile Jr (Fangoria). But, we are then treated to some new (but also familiar) faces like Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street), Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill), Clancy Brown (Pet Sematary 2) and special effects artist Steve Johnson (Night of the Demons).
What was very special to me is that this time around they included some international releases with a focus on Italian horror films! This is huge as it recognizes the incredible impact they had on American slasher films and is a beloved subgenre for many horror fans (myself included). They talked about Italian horror and Giallo, though mainly the films of Dario Argento (Tenebre), Lucio Fulci (City of the Living Dead) and Lamberto Bava (Demons). Robert Englund called it “stylized horror” (and I agree!) but sadly none of our famous Italian directors or actors were interviewed leaving it feeling incomplete (RIP Fulci).
There was an increase in the women portrayed in Part II, but sadly, few black, Indigenous and people of color were represented. However, they do discuss Asian representation in horror, and I was happy to see Tetsuo: Iron Man (1989) discussed, along with a surprising appearance of director Shinya Tsukamoto. They also broached the “elephant in the room” with a mention about the vast amount of rape/assault and misogynistic elements often portrayed in horror movies from this decade.
I was delighted to see all the underappreciated and indie projects being included, along with many movies that I hadn't seen before or heard of such as Altered States (1980), The Funhouse (1981), The Boogens (1981), Alone in the Dark (1982) and Terror in the Aisles (1984).
In Search of Darkness: Part II showcases more female-directed or female focused films with an insightful interview with Jackie Kong. She wrote and directed The Being (her first horror movie), but also directed Blood Diner (1987), a cult classic. Her perspective is invaluable (and required) as a female horror creator whose career was established in the 80s. As women became more involved in the horror genre, the 1980s also saw the rise of Scream Queens and the Final Girls. There were segments on Nancy Allan (Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Poltergeist 3) and Leanna Quigley (Return of the Living Dead, Graduation Day, Savage Streets) which were amazing. As any hardcore horror fan would know, Linnea Quigley is 80s low budget horror royalty!
Beyond the synth scores, high production value, glamour and MTV pop culture of our mainstream hits, the underbelly of 80s horror was an era of death, blood and gore. So, In Search of Darkness: Part II highlights predominantly slashers with the addition of monsters, creatures, aliens, and anything with tons of practical effects. That is quintessential 80s horror! But, there were also the films to delve into dark, gritty social commentary and taboo subject matter, and this was recognized (definitely with faults) with the creation of the “video nasties'' in the UK. As well as more extreme, or disturbing, films such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1989), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), and The Entity (1982) all get well-deserved mentions.
Was In Search of Darkness: Part II necessary? I don’t think so. Is it fun for lovers of 80s horror? Absolutely! However, due to the pacing of the documentary I did feel the weight of the 4.5 hr runtime this time around. I think the idea of In Search of Darkness overall would have been better with the one feature being a mix of nostalgia, mainstream and indie films, some interviews with journalists, actors, directors with additional special features on the Blu-ray release showcasing some of the creators or movies that they couldn’t fit. But, with horror fans, it’s hard to please everyone and at least with the addition of Part II, I think they have succeeded. For as much as I was really pumped and enjoyed In Search of Darkness: Part 1, Part II was the film that hit that 80s sweet spot for me.
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