REVIEW: In Search of Darkness III (2022): The horror trilogy doc is complete
Part III is the final journey. Roman numerals are mandatory. No 3's allowed.
David Weiner's encyclopedia of horror films of the 1980's is now finally done. This whole series of films attempts to document the horror genre of this specific time period with those who were there alongside more modern critics and yes, even those often maligned YouTube "experts".
I can only imagine the undertaking this must have been in the editing department alone. The interviews while numerous were more than likely all done in Los Angeles as this would be the base of operations of most of the actors/directors that were interviewed for this trilogy of films.
Wrangling all these folks for these interviews would be half the battle. Those starring or directing in these films are getting older every year and documenting their experiences becomes more and more important. There are a growing number of that have sadly passed that seems to be an ongoing problem in this latest entry. Thankfully, those interviewed were able to express their sentiments about their time spent with them during the filming of these numerous movies.
John does show up for a few segments and isn't too surly either.
The format of the documentary has remained consistent in the life of the trilogy and doesn't deviate from the established format. Each year contains several films with someone from said films talking about their experiences or why this film is important to them.
We'll get a truncated trailer about the film, some discussion and we're on to the next. The pace is brisk and never lingers. Even better are the talking heads found in this documentary almost always have something interesting to say here which keeps the viewers attention.
How's this for keeping your interest? We learn the origin of Screaming Mad George's name. Honestly, I'm more curious about those outrageous scenes from Society (1989) but this will do for now. His shirt bearing Santa Sangre is discussed in the documentary too for those who are curious about this Alejandro Jodorowsky film.
Maintaining the interest of a viewer within the documentary format is paramount especially when the runtime of this documentary is over five and a half hours long. The length may turn some viewers off but if you've made it to the third and final film in this trilogy you know what to expect.
As for myself, I did not view this all in one sitting but I can see it happening. I know I did sit through the other two in one sitting if you can believe it. You do enter a groove when watching especially if you're into the content.
VHS? Video Home System? What's that? I do not miss this format at all!
This time around the documentary delved more into the VHS home video market subsection that I'm not as well versed in. These are the films usually shot directly on VHS as you can clearly tell by the image alone.
This looks like a warm fuzzy dream or maybe I need to get my eyes checked. The softness of the image was apparent even during the time. What's that on your upper lip? A caterpillar?
Things (1989) was always a big one that I have a copy of yet have never watched. Often considered one of the worst movies ever made in the genre. Worse than Troll 2? There are a few on this list.
The documentary even mentions that they shot the film on VHS, transferred it to film and then back to VHS for distribution. Maybe this explains the often terrible picture quality? Is there a HD transfer of this yet? I can only imagine.
The best part especially about this entry are the number of films that I have not seen yet. The horror genre has so many films out there especially in this decade where I would say was their height of popularity.
Another good sign seeing Llyod Kaufman show up. I love his attitude towards life and especially as an outsider to the Hollywood system. He makes films on his own terms and that's why they're so unique.
They were cheap to make, produce and distribute. Good old Lloyd Kaufman from Troma Studios lets us know very quickly how lucrative it was to be making horror films during this decade. The VHS market was on fire with rental shops popping up everywhere. These shops were almost exclusively independents looking for any type of content that could satiate the demand of their customers. The horror genre was more than happy to provide chills and thrills for their audience. Mr. Kaufman mentioned that he apparently sold over 500,000 copies of Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986) for $200 a piece. Troma is notorious for stretching their budgets so at this point the risk vs reward return is extremely lucrative. Don't forget the price of those tapes at this point in time. They were expensive!
The satanic panic was a real thing. The PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) senate hearings were interesting to see. You soon realized the musicians being targeted were well spoken, informed individuals. Eventually the parental advisory sticker was attached to selected releases which only helped boost sales in the end.
Given that the time period is the 1980's, the filmmakers are also trying to provide a brief snapshot of the culture at the time and not solely from a North American perspective that is often common in these type of documentaries. We still tread among common ground such as Reaganomics, satanic panic along with sex and violence in film.
This time we do get a number of Mexican films that seem to have been absent from previous documentaries. We too see more inclusion of Asian horror and worldwide horror that brings in elements that vary wildly to the standard Amercian films in this genre. The cultural significance is also touched upon by such creatures as the Jiangshi, the Chinese hopping vampire which were so different when I first saw one in film many moons ago.
They're in the basement munching on popcorn while watching horror films.
I've always found it interesting when viewing films from this period around the world. Often the background of the films are lost as you do not understand the context of the myths of different cultures. Thankfully these days with the internet you can be more clued in to what these elements actually mean instead of remaining blissfully ignorant or knowing someone who could explain this to you.
A product of its time. This would have definitely caught my eye sitting on the shelf. Time to source this masterpiece immediately.
This is about creepy killer kids, a genre that never seems to do well financially.
A brief section on inclusion, stereotypes and LGBT issues was nice to see. Even nicer were the thoughts of viewing film as a time capsule. Yes, there are scenes that are not politically correct in the eyes of a modern viewer but at the same time they are important to see. One interviewee mentions that context and not necessarily content is what's important. Only looking back do we see where we are at in the present day.
Welcome to the party Joe Bob. He has some choice words and has seen too much within this genre.
Any good documentary on horror will have Joe Bob Briggs show up with some wisdom over his many years of reviews and hosting of his Drive-In show. He really nails it here talking about the 80s nostalgia googles that everyone has been wearing for awhile now. A nice monologue about how people are trying to critically analyze these films all these years later makes him laugh. He mentions these are often not art pieces, they were cheaply made for business reasons. I can't argue with his logic as this was often the case. These films were usually discarded quickly, they filled a need and they did it well.
Everyone has an affection for any type of film no matter the "quality" of the film. The time, place and feeling that a film evokes for someone is completely unique. These are always fun to hear about in casual conversation when it eventually comes up. This very concept is brought up by one of the interviewees who mentioned that we should all talk about films in a new type of way. Do not discuss whether a film is good or bad but instead whether it's entertaining or not. I find this hard to argue with and is a great way to look at any type of media.
Tracie Thorns from Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (2007), a film that does not get enough respect knows what I'm talking about. Finding unwatched content is always a blast, you never know what you're gonna get. I usually have a big grin too when watching most of this stuff.
As with any boom, you'll need to dig to find the gems through all the junk. This is really half the fun. Strolling through a video store with nothing but an often shocking cover to catch your attention was the norm. You'd flip over that tape and read a paragraph of text. Should I rent it? Sounds interesting and that cover is crazy.
This would have been a good one to watch for the Christmas holidays. Another film I have not seen as of yet. Holiday horror is generally a rare thing to see. I was able to watch the classic Black Christmas (1974) during the holidays to mix it up and it never disappoints.
The funny thing is that's still somewhat the same in the modern era. You have so much content and not enough time. Instead of physically going to a store and browsing, you do it digitally. The cover and description is now sitting in your device. Should I stream it or not? Sure, why not?
Overall the film is very interesting to a limited selection of people. For fans by fans as they say. For those that are interested in delving deeper into the genre this is well worth a watch. A compendium of the films listed in this series is a veritable goldmine for those looking for more in genre.
The wall of content remains the same but it may not be physical anymore. I see Dr. No, Rocky and A Nightmare on Elm Street on those shelves. Make a choice already or watch all three.
My biggest gripe is delving through the credits attempting to pick out all the films mentioned. There are a good number that I either know, have not seen or never have heard of before. The best part is discovering a good number of films I have not heard of at all.
This is the best find for me when these type of situations happen. I sure hope someone posts a list of all these films or I might have to start making my own soon enough. The end credits on the documentary is massively long!
Thanks for the read 🙂
All media captured by myself from the original source.
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