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Friday, October 28, 2022 | Interviews


Even amid a veritable golden age of stellar horror documentaries, the first two entries in the 1980s-centered IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS series stand out as … well, not exactly a cut above. More like a cut above … and below … and in the middle … and everywhere in between.

These monstrously ambitious, viscerally films revel in virtually every silver-screen splatter, spell and scream from the decade that not only redefined the boundaries of cinema but continues to reverberate to this day. 

Now comes IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS: PART III, a five-hour grand (guignol) finale featuring 70 horror icons and experts, all heralding the underdog – i.e., the “straight-to-video and shot-on-video horror favorites” as well as “unsung drive-in and theatrical releases.” 

“The first IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS covered a lot of the heavy hitters of horror,” director David Weiner tells RUE MORGUE. “Freddy, Michael, Leatherface, Pinhead, Chucky – they’re all there in part one. Along with some eclectic titles people may or may not have seen, to be fair. But there was a lot of essential ground to cover and at the time, we didn’t necessarily know we’d make any other films, so it had to be done then. Once we got the second one off the ground, I really got to spread my wings and go beyond the borders of North America and talk all about Italian horror and Australian horror and other European horror. Now, we get to cap off this trilogy of ’80s horror with the films that thrived and found life on the margins, whether that was a theatrical release or making the rounds at drive-ins or heading straight for the VHS shelves at a mom-and-pop shop.” 

In this way, IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS: PART III brilliantly finds the connective tissue between The Serpent and the Rainbow and Monkey Shines; between Happy Birthday to Me and Oliver Stone’s forgotten directorial debut The Hand; between Michael Caine’s retirement funder Jaws: The Revenge and Cemetery of Terror

“Some may say, ‘Are you scraping the bottom of the barrel?’” Weiner continues. “And for true horror fans, it’s like …‘Uh, no.’ Some of these films are amazing. And some really are pretty awful – but even a lot of the ones that fall short or can be loved if you embrace it for what it is … and recommend it to a whole new generation. It’s exciting to say, ‘Guess what? Chopping Mall really has no hatchets. It’s Short Circuit meets Terminator, with robots roaming a mall lasering your head until it explodes.’ You’re never going to convince me something like that isn’t awesome and culturally relevant.” 

RUE MORGUE recently spoke with Weiner about his own darkened path, the sometimes-arduous path to uncovering previously untold stories and why these films continue to touch hearts and twist minds forty years on. 

IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS: PART III is available for purchase between now and midnight on Halloween – act fast and you’ll even get your name included in the credits alongside underground legends… 

Let’s start simple: How’d you discover horror? 

I was born in 1968, so I was a ’70s kid and an ’80s teen. Which, in a way, is a shame because I was still a little too young to see things like Halloween, Prom Night and Friday the 13th in the theater at the tail end of the ’70s but converged quite nicely with all the amazing ’70s horror we cover in the films. I really came of age with a lot of these movies. You know, seeing films like An American Werewolf in London or Creepshow or any number of other movies in a theater at an age where I was trying to find my way in the world are honestly some of the happiest, most magical movie moments of my life. 

It seems to me this is the perfect moment for a series like IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS to come along. Enough time has passed for there to be real perspective on the films and cultural context, but also, no one is getting any younger. Many of the incredible, inspiring stories you tell in these films – especially in part three – need to be told now or they’ll be lost forever.  

That’s very true. These films serve a lot of purposes, not least of which is as time capsules from a very different era. I definitely wanted to be part of collecting that history – of tracking down a generation of people who worked on these films we love so much and first, celebrate them and let them know they’re appreciated, and second, come to the sort of deeper understanding of how a film came to be and why it is unique that can only be achieved by getting the perspectives of the players themselves. As you said, there’s no time to waste. For example, we planned to speak with Tawny Kitaen about Witchboard, but she passed away before we could do the interview. But it’s also not even just about speaking to people, either. A lot of these films, especially in this third outing, are harder to come by, you know? 

Is there any film, in particular, you can point to as an example? 

Definitely Blood Beach. I remember wanting to see it in theaters. I mean, that tagline! Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water – you can’t get to it! Perfection. But I never saw it there or on VHS. And then, later, I’m thinking, “Why have I still not seen Blood Beach?” It’s very, very hard to come by. It eventually occurred to me that video stores replaced their VHSs with DVDs, and the movie got caught up in legal red tape in terms of rights and so on. Then, video stores just went away altogether. Will it ever show up on streaming? Who knows. So, to me, it’s very important to document a movie as fun and as silly and as memorable as Blood Beach because we’re in an environment where films are falling through the cracks and never ending up on streaming. 

Preservation has to begin with some degree of awareness. 

Right, exactly. 

It’s an interesting quandary. I’m hardly a Luddite – the Criterion Channel and Shudder could probably keep me largely content, cinematically speaking, for the rest of my life, but there was a kind of delusional utopianism at the beginning of the streaming revolution that has been brought back down to earth as random music and films disappear from various platforms. The full sprint we took away from physical media is going to have consequences we haven’t really fully thought through yet. 

The fear is that one day soon people won’t even know what they’re missing. So that’s part of the project as well. 

Are there any interviews you did for the film that turned out to be unexpected highlights? 

So many. I could go on and on, really. I mentioned Witchboard, so I’ll say Kathleen Wilhoite was just perfect talking all about her experience making that film. I also loved getting insight from Lance Guest on what happened with Jaws IV. Coming into the project, he thought it was a really solid script and then days before the shoot all these radical changes get made because – spoiler alert – the shark wasn’t working. That conversation both helped explain how the actual film came to be while giving you a glimpse of what the original intent was. 

I was also honored to speak with Mark Soper about Blood Rage. Even if he was a bit befuddled why anyone cares about Blood Rage, he had such great stories to tell. I mean, there are a lot of actors who, in their heyday, took horror movies because they wanted to be working, and that’s what came their way. You know, the running joke about Michael Caine is he never saw a paycheck he didn’t like, especially in the ’80s. So, for him, he shows up in movies like The Hand or Jaws: The Revenge and is just happy to do his thing and pay his second mortgage or whatever, but he ends up elevating it. 

Oh, and the segment with Rubén Galindo Jr. on Cemetery of Terror was a great treat for me as well. That’s a movie almost entirely inspired by the success of Thriller. You know, let’s make Thriller with zombies and tombs. And even though it was a low-budget struggle for him, he’s infectiously enthusiastic about the film. It really shows that if you have the conviction of your vision and you wanna entertain and do the best you can, the low budget and awkwardness of some scenes or editing or whatever doesn’t matter because that passion and truth ultimately shine through and is the most important thing. 

Yes! And Ted Nicolaou talking about Terrorvision! I love all the authentic love and pathos he superimposed on the kind of hokey alien from that film! He wants to be a pet, not a monster! Watching his interview was really affecting. It made me want to watch it again with new eyes! 

Absolutely. It’s easy to dismiss a movie like TerrorvisionOh, a monster comes out of the TV and eats people. In actuality, if you engage it, the film really is a clever satire on cable television programming and an exploration of the dynamics of dysfunctional families and a masterclass in creating unlikeable characters on purpose. It’s really great. 

It’s all context, right? In 1987, my mom used to send me to the second run theater in New Hampshire while she was at work because I loved movies and two-dollar tickets were cheaper than a babysitter. So I saw Jaws: The Revenge over ten times in the theater. I’m probably responsible for an actual percentage of its box office haul. It never occurred to me that it was a bad movie until I got plugged into the larger world. 

Absolutely. I think when you’re young, there’s an openness to storytelling that allows films to make a stronger – sometimes indelible – impact on you. At 10 or 16 or 21, it often doesn’t matter if it’s a rehash or a remake. It’s brand new to you, and it’s important to you. Maybe you had to sneak into the theater with your friends or put a tape in a different box at the video store to even see it. Everyone can say Jaws IV is the worst movie, but if that’s the first one you saw or you had a special experience seeing it or you saw it right after Jaws III and thought, “Well, this is a step up!” [laughs] then your love for it makes total sense. Context is a big part of ’80s horror, obviously. 

I love that you go so deep into the stuff that was in reaction to the Satanic Panic and the PMRC – Trick or Treat, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare and especially, The Gate. 

Oh, yeah – of course! We couldn’t leave a movie out of an ’80s horror doc that has teens playing a record backwards and summoning demons! 

At this point, we can safely say it isn’t just nostalgia talking These movies, derided though they were, have stood the test of time and outlived more chic, prettier trends. 

I agree. I mean, I’m sure Evil Dead has outsold Ishtar many times over at this point. There’s a certain fidelity to these films because of the practical effects element to them. These are very colorful, very imaginative films, regardless of budget, even if they were turned around for a quick buck. What’s good and what’s bad is always subjective. Certain films, especially in horror, are just beloved because they’re handcrafted with care at the lowest budget possible. And those films will outlast many of the highest-budget films ever made.

Find full details and purchasing options at For some nostalgic thrills from the era of big hair and parachute pants, check out the IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS: PART III trailer below.


“These films serve a lot of purposes, not least of which is as time capsules from a very different era. I definitely wanted to be part of collecting that history…”

Shawn Macomber