It was a time when horror reigned supreme, when slasher icons stabbed their way through cinemas, when practical effects oozed from the pores of mind-bending creations that had to be seen on the big screen to be believed. It was the ’80s, and this magical era of horror is dissected with more than 40 top-level interviews in the new documentary In Search of Darkness. With less than a week remaining on the documentary's final Indiegogo campaign, Daily Dead had the pleasure of talking with with In Search of Darkness writer and director David Weiner about interviewing a horror genre dream list of filmmakers, actors, and makeup effects artists, taking a deep dive into how horror was affected by real-life events in the ’80s, and the hours of insightful footage that fans can look forward to experiencing when the documentary is released on Blu-ray and DVD.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, David. It's been awesome to watch all the amazing news coming out for In Search of Darkness.
David Weiner: Yeah, we're cranking out like a machine, which is really fun because you do a lot of work, and at a certain point you feel like you're working in a vacuum. To be able to share this much before we're even done, it's very cool for it to get very positive feedback.
When did the journey start for you personally? The process of doing a documentary like this is almost like climbing the Mount Everest of horror.
David Weiner: Well, my personal journey and the journey of In Search of Darkness intersected last September. It was a project that was already going before I got involved. I'm a guy who has many hats, but basically, prior to this I was the executive editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Prior to that, I was at Entertainment Tonight for 13 years. And in between all of that, I'm an entertainment journalist. These days, I write for The Hollywood Reporter and LAWeekly and other publications. So this thing came along, because my friend Jessica Dwyer, who does a lot of stuff for HorrorHound and is a horror entertainment journalist, she got involved with In Search of Darkness and tapped me to get involved.
And backtracking to the beginning of In Search of Darkness, a UK producer who owns a company called CreatorVC, Robin Block, had this vision that he's going to make a bunch of very cool ’80s-themed documentaries. And the first one out of the gate that he put together, all crowdfunded, was In Search of the Last Action Heroes, an ’80s action hero documentary. Then he said, "I'm going to follow that up with In Search of Darkness, and that's going to be an ’80s horror documentary. Then we're going to continue on with a couple others." In development right now is In Search of Tomorrow, which is about ’80s sci-fi movies, and I am going to be directing that as well, which is super cool.
But with In Search of Darkness, there are many documentaries about horror that are great and have come and gone and are still being made, but this seems to be the one that is definitively about this particular decade. And this particular decade is very special because so much changed. There was this amazing shift in the way we watched things, from the movie screens and drive-ins, to watching them on VHS or cable. And it also reinforced a lot of indie horror filmmaking because the Roger Cormans of the world inspired the other independent producers who said, "I could make horror for cheap." I could do it straight to video and I can have an amazing poster and some artwork that people will see in the video store and they'll buy it, even if there's not a marquee name attached, if there's great artwork with sex, blood, violence, gore, whatever floats your boat, whatever appeals to you.
This decade was incredibly potent in terms of the practical effects explosion, because it was already there, but there were movies like The Thing that showed people that you could go into absolute excess, or Evil Dead 2, where everyone said, "Oh my God." You could do anything and get away with it, and make it entertaining as opposed to off-putting, depending on who you are. It really is this amazing, concentrated decade—especially before CGI changed the game in a lot of ways—that made horror change from what Tom Holland likes to say, "From being the redheaded stepchild of cinema to being a force to be reckoned with."
You've done over 40 interviews with really notable stars and filmmakers from ’80s horror for In Search of Darkness. When you were first looking at who to involve with this, how did you decide on who to reach out to? It seems like such a daunting task to bring in as many influential people as you could from that period.
David Weiner: Well, you start with a wishlist and then you go from there to an embarrassment of riches to a point where it's like you have a party and you say, "I can have 30 of my best friends here." And all of a sudden you invite their friends and if you invite this person, you have to invite that person. And then you have a guest list of 75—all people you want at your party, but you get standing room only.
We wanted to get a very solid cross section of actors, writers, filmmakers, directors, special effects folks, composers, former child actors, who can all have the insight of a particular corner of this decade and the filmmaking process. We also wanted to have film critics and influencers and people who were influenced by this decade who are contemporary filmmakers or are producers or tastemakers, and explain how they have been influenced by the ’80s in terms of their current work.
You have over 100 hours of footage from filming the documentary, and I'm sure you have so many anecdotes and amazing stories that could just be their own films, but then you have to try and break it down into a digestible movie. What has that process been like?
David Weiner: I think we're just going to have to make it indigestible and then everyone will be happy. Because that's the thing with a definitive film, the definition is a little different for everybody. For me, that definition means being able to not only do a broad survey, but really do a deep dive into a variety of corners. It's kind of an even playing field in terms of the output. It's hard because there are so many goals. I sat down for over an hour with everybody and some people got two hours, and it's really about putting together a coherent story that is entertaining, informative, and really tugs at the strings of nostalgia with a purpose. And if anything comes out of watching this, for me at the end of the day, is that when it's done, you'll have learned something, you'll have confirmed what you already knew, and you're going to also run out and watch 25 horror movies back to back.
At this point, do you know what the final runtime will be?
David Weiner: Well, the idea originally was to put an approximately 90-plus minute cut together, and then if we reached our initial stretch goals on the Kickstarter back in October, then we would do a three-hour cut. Now, we did that in spades because in the Kickstarter, we met our goal in two days. And then, for the next 30 days we made it to about $100,000 more.
Now we're doing the Indiegogo element, and right now it's an opportunity to back the film and get your copy of the film because we're not going through traditional distribution at this point in the game. It's really the best return, to get the film now and get the copy of the film and also be part of this project, which is really a historic thing because you have such an amazing assembly of talent.
And I think when all is said and done, it's going to easily be a three-hour cut and I think that's what we're going to deliver. I think that's even going to be tough to limit to three hours, but that's what we're aiming at right now.
Wow, it's like your own Cabal Cut of Nightbreed.
David Weiner: Well, here's the thing. When you sit down with these folks as director of this project, I basically said, "Here's the idea," but you have to put the cart before the horse to a certain degree. I put a narrative structure together that not only gets to highlight each individual year of this movie of this decade, but, also goes into chapter sections: the heroes, the villains, the special effects, the music, the impact, the sociopolitical climate—all of these things. When you sit down with these folks, this is the kind of material that you try to get. It's so wonderful when you're sitting down and then they just blow you away with their knowledge and their insight and their experience. To elevate this to something that is more than you initially expected is just so rewarding to have done multiple times with these interviews.
While talking to everyone, has there been anything that you've learned that you never knew existed? Did you learn anything that blew you away as a horror fan?
David Weiner: Over and over and over and over. I don't want to reveal too much, but I talked to Stuart Gordon about Dr. Pretorius in From Beyond, played by Ted Sorel, who was in all of these prosthetics, with his arm sort of smashed against him. He was in this tight latex suit and Stuart Gordon was telling the story about how Ted, who was always on point, started to forget his lines. And then he started to slur his words and they realized that due to the position that his arm was in, smashed up against his body in this suit for such an extended period of time, he wasn't getting the muscle movement and he was not only passing out, but he was in jeopardy of having a heart attack. He basically said he was essentially crucified in there. When you're stagnant and you can't move your muscles, then the body starts to shut down. Luckily, they were able to extricate him as quickly as they could from this costume and he survived and everything was fine, thankfully. This was kind of the Wild West of filmmaking to a certain degree. People tried to be safe, but they also wanted to push the limits of art and entertainment.
I talked to Kane Hodder, who was a stunt coordinator before he was Jason in Friday the 13th Part VII and in four total films. He credits the late, great John Carl Buechler for giving him the shot at playing Jason. He had done a controlled burn in the past for a demo reel and got badly, badly burned on a huge percentage of his body and had to go to the hospital. It almost killed him, but he came back from that to face his fears. In Friday the 13th Part VII, his first outing as Jason, he did this extended, on-camera, controlled burn. He faced his fears, faced his demons, and went ahead and did it, and did the longest, to that date, on-camera burn.
And that, to me, is fantastic to get the emotional elements. On top of the things that we're doing where people are telling stories about their experiences and their observations, there's a huge emotional element to these experiences that these actors and filmmakers are having while working with their contemporaries and facing danger at certain points that really make this quite a poignant documentary as well.
Yeah, it is amazing because these are all people that have sacrificed things in the making of art.
David Weiner: Yeah, Cassandra Peterson, when talking about Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, she's just like, "That wig I had would have gone up like a bomb with all that fire around me." She's tied to the stake at one point in the movie, and then later in the movie she's going around a burning house. And so she was talking about how she was covered in a flame retardant gel so she wouldn't go up like a bomb or get hurt with her giant wig with all that hairspray. But she didn't realize that that stuff, at least for her, is super-duper itchy. And so here she is tied to the stake with all this gel on her and she wants to itch like crazy and she can't do it. There's a little PTSD with some of these stories they've recounted.
What was wonderful about this particular project is that I got to go beyond just asking about their movies. I've heard about their movies and they've talked about their movies. I think you've got a lot of interesting energy from these folks talking about the genre and the impact and the sociopolitical elements and commenting on how the ’80s really changed horror, and how horror changed cinema in one decade. It's pretty incredible.
The final Indiegogo campaign for In Search of Darkness runs through March 31st. Is there anything you'd like to share with our readers about what they can look forward to with this campaign?
David Weiner: I'll put it this way, if you're interested in this film, now's the time to back it and reserve, not only your copy, but there are larger packages if you're interested in that, and if you have the financial means to do it. I understand what these things cost, but it's a documentary project that we're doing entirely ourselves, and right now is the best time to get a piece of it.
I just urge to everyone that this is really a special project because not only does it involve people who really know what they're talking about and were there, but the people who are doing it and in our advisory group were all enthusiastic fans as well. We're not just indifferent documentary filmmakers who said, "Oh, this is an interesting subject. Let's find something out about this." No, we really care. And we have the people who are already part of this horror community putting this together. That enthusiasm and excitement from the inside really shows in this project.
To take part in the final Indiegogo campaign and to buy a copy of In Search of Darkness on Blu-ray and DVD, visit:
Press Release: "Celebrating the greatest and most influential decade in horror, the groundbreaking documentary In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic ‘80s Horror launched last October with a highly successful Kickstarter campaign that captured the imagination of fans from all over the world, and netted more than 300% of the campaign’s initial fundraising goal. Now, with the documentary in post-production, and gearing up for a release date during Summer 2019, the team at CreatorVC is providing fans with one more opportunity to be a part of horror history before it’s too late.
On Tuesday, March 5th, a final Indiegogo campaign in support of In Search of Darkness, which will provide horror fans with their final chance to support this landmark celebration of the greatest decade in horror history, and experience for themselves a nostalgia-fueled roller coaster ride that will not be available after this final crowdfunding campaign for ISOD concludes on Sunday, March 31st. To find out more information on how you can purchase your own copy of In Search of Darkness on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as the exclusive backer rewards currently available, please visit: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/in-search-of-darkness/reft/19034290/af2
Featuring compelling critical takes and insider tales of the Hollywood filmmaking experience throughout the 1980s, In Search of Darkness will provide fans with a unique perspective on the decade that gave rise to some of the horror genre’s greatest icons, performers, directors and franchises that forever changed the landscape of modern cinema. Tracking major theatrical releases, obscure titles and straight-to-video gems, the incredible array of interviewees that have been assembled for ISOD will weigh in on a multitude of topics: from creative and budgetary challenges creatives faced throughout the decade to the creature suits and practical effects that reinvigorated the makeup effects industry during the era to the eye-popping stunts that made a generation of fans believe in the impossible.
In Search of Darkness will also celebrate many of the atmospheric soundtracks released during that time, the resurgence of 3-D filmmaking, the cable TV revolution and the powerful marketing in video store aisles, the socio-political allegories infused throughout many notable films, and so much more.
“Assembling the amazing interview talent and speaking with them for In Search of Darkness has been an absolute thrill for this longtime horror genre fan, and I’m thrilled to be able to share this journey into ‘80s horror with audiences,” said David Weiner, director of In Search of Darkness. “Calling anything ‘definitive’ can be quite a challenge for any filmmaker, but I genuinely believe we have captured something very special for horror fans — and fans of film in general — who are interested in more of a genre deep dive and an examination of a decade’s influence, than simply a broad survey of horror.”
According to Robin Block, Executive Producer & CEO of CreatorVC, “Crowdfunding In Search of Darkness provided us with the freedom to create a unique proposition and format for true fans of '80s horror. With this project, we're delivering an experience the likes of which has never been seen before in commercial filmmaking, and with our world-class and unique line up of '80s horror talent, it is unlikely to be witnessed ever again. It’s been exciting to collaborate directly with the horror community thus far, and we’re so grateful for all the support we’ve received over the last few months, which includes both the talent who are involved in the documentary itself as well as all the original campaign contributors out there who enthusiastically share our passion for this decade of horror greatness.”
Featuring more than 40 interviews with some of the greatest talents ever assembled, fans will get to enjoy hearing from proverbial “Who’s Who” of horror throughout In Search of Darkness, including Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond), Don Mancini (Child’s Play, Curse of Chucky), Cassandra Peterson (iconic horror host “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark”), Mick Garris (Critters 2, The Stand), Sean S. Cunningham (producer, Friday the 13th , the House series), Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street, New Nightmare), Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling), Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Devil’s Rejects), Larry Cohen (The Stuff, It’s Alive), Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Stepfather II), Keith David (The Thing , They Live), Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet, Chopping Mall), Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dolls), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13thseries, Hatchet), Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, House on Haunted Hill ), Lori Cardille (Day of the Dead), Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Entertainment founder), Nick Castle (Michael Myers in Halloween  and Halloween ), Robbi Morgan (Friday the 13th ), Andre Gower (The Monster Squad), Harry Manfredini (composer for the Friday the 13thseries), Brian Yuzna (Society, Bride of Re-Animator), Ken Sagoes (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master), and special effects legends Greg Nicotero (Evil Dead II, The Walking Dead) and Tom Woodruff, Jr. (The Monster Squad, Pumpkinhead).
As the expansive documentary examines just what made horror entertainment throughout the 1980s so unforgettable, In Search of Darkness will also feature many notable pop culture pundits and industry experts alike: Ryan Turek (producer, Halloween  and Happy Death Day), Ben Scrivens (Fright-Rags), Katie Featherston (the Paranormal Activity series), Spencer Hickman (DeathWaltz Records/Mondo), Phil Nobile Jr. (Editor-in-Chief, Fangoria Magazine), James Rolfe (YouTube creator, Angry Video Game Nerd and Cinemassacre), Cecil Trachenburg (YouTube creator, GoodBadFlicks), Michael Gingold (journalist and former Editor-in-Chief, Fangoria Magazine), Heather Wixson (Managing Editor, Daily Dead), Tom Hodge (The Dude Designs), 3-D expert Eric Kurland and celebrated horror artist Graham Humphreys.
NewRetroWave will also be curating the soundtrack for In Search of Darkness, and for more details on the various backer levels, or for more general information on In Search of Darkness, please check out the Indiegogo Campaign at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/in-search-of-darkness/reft/19034290/af2
CreatorVC is an independent producer of long-form factual entertainment. Our projects are crowdfunded, which means we are completely focused on creating content that our audience loves. We provide our backers with the opportunity to influence and enable exciting projects on the topics they are passionate about. We see them as co-creators and actively encourage feedback and input; it’s as much their project as it is ours. We’re motivated and excited about our projects because we only work on concepts that we love."