The sequel is as essential to the tradition of horror as shocking gore and a monster you love to fear. Where would we be without the certainty that the killer will pop back up for one final scare? As the definitive work on the horror genre, it only makes sense that In Search of Darkness: Part II would return with a vengeance and what a thrill it is.
You’d think that four hours of content in the first In Search of Darkness would sufficiently cover horror, but director David Weiner would beg to differ. In an equally massive expansion and continuation of the first film, Part II chronologically explores ’80s horror through a documentary funhouse of movements and interests that influenced the greats of the genre. Even though the documentary remains tightly focused on the horror films of the ’80s, In Search of Darkness: Part II puts in the work to expand the audience’s understanding of how the genre during the period was influenced—from inspiring other periods in film to a more global approach to horror. If In Search of Darkness is a temple to the genre gods, In Search of Darkness: Part II is the holy text that allows the audience to worship with full surrender.
Any horror fan knows that tradition is essential to the genre. Horror functions among its fans as a cult, in which membership requires fluency in an intricate code of staple films and the bloodthirsty desire to consume more and more and more. It’s why the documentary works so well—even a horror viewer with a very basic understanding of the most popular films can sit for Part II and come away understanding the shorthand of the cult they’ve just been inducted into.
In Search of Darkness: Part II dedicates a bit more time to the earliest films that came before the period of ’80s horror we know and love. Icons of the period turn back to horror prior to the ’80s and in their own childhood that shaped them into genre devotees. Through these meditations on horror films of the ’50s and into the ’70s, ’80s horror fans gain an extra appreciation of the films that walked so that the ’80s could run (screaming into the woods).
It’s easy to think of Part II as your ’80s horror master class, after the first documentary offered an introduction. Where In Search of Darkness dwelled extensively on how horror in the ’80s reflected the current culture and politics of the time, Part II takes a more global approach. Particularly in its arresting discussion of Giallo films, the documentary walks the viewer through several international takes on the horror genre that were inspired by American horror and, in turn, inspired some of our favorite films and filmmakers. As a distinctly communal genre, this dance of international and domestic horror strikes an especially poignant note.
In Search of Darkness: Part II is especially successful in depicting horror through two specific lenses. First is horror as a bridge and the second is horror as the most human of all genres. Some of the greatest moments in this huge documentary are the discussions on horror comedies, science fiction, and horror that plays as very serious cinema. Horror is uniquely positioned to be absurd and funny, sobering and despairing, and to push the limits of the imagination. Just as horror can make a home within any blend of genres and build a bridge between them, horror is able to reach out and touch audiences on multiple levels.
Identity is vital to horror and David Weiner shows a deep appreciation for that. Being a horror fan is an identity in which we build community. Horror films create heroes that anyone can relate to, whether the outcast indulges in the power fantasy of a great movie monster, a final girl inspires us to survive, or in moments of honest self-reflection we can chuckle over knowing the exact moment we’d die in a horror movie based on the trope we see ourselves reflected in. Through intimate interviews with the stars of ’80s horror, even more in-depth than those in the first film, that sense of horror and identity shows beautifully.
Sitting down to a David Weiner film, I’ve learned, is like sitting for a feast that is traveling down a high-speed conveyer belt. Every moment is a delight and an indulgence and, at the same time, so overwhelming and fast-paced you’re almost certain you can’t possibly absorb it all. In Search of Darkness: Part II captures every bit of intrigue and affection for the genre that is present in the first movie and invites audiences to go deeper. The intelligence and love and labor that has gone into this documentary cannot be understated, and it shows for every second.
Movie Score: 5/5