In late 2018, whilst delving deep down into the horror rabbit hole on Twitter, we came across an interesting account called 80's Horror Doc. Instantly the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. For me the words 80's and horror are normally a no brainer. They're like peas and carrots. A deliciously, appetising combination that in most cases has you coming back for more. From the creative genius behind 'In Search of the Last Action Heroes', Robin Block was developing an incredibly exciting horror documentary, the like of which has never been made before, called I'n Search of Darkness'. Their Twitter blurb read "THE DEFINITIVE HORROR DOCUMENTARY. Bringing the horror community together to celebrate the most iconic era in cinema history"
Well that was enough for us. We eagerly awaited the launch of their Kickstarter campaign. We supported. We pre-ordered. We shared the hell out of it. 'In Search of Darkness' was quickly becoming my most anticipated release of 2019 and it definitely did not disappoint.
Bursting with insightful interviews from legends of the horror scene like Stuart Gordon, Joe Dante, Robert Englund, Barbara Crampton, Doug Bradley and a who's who of horror royalty, 'In Search of Darkness' garnered rave reviews everywhere. At nearly four and a half hours long, it's a disturbingly good in depth, behind the scenes horror hard-on for both casual and hardcore fans. A lovely added bonus is that the physical copy comes with beautifully designed and illustrated artwork by legendary UK artist Graham Humphreys.
Writer Gavin Logan recently had the opportunity to interview the writer and director of 'In Search of Darkness' David Weiner.
GL: Hey David, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us here at Fright Club NI. We're big 80's horror fans here as you can probably tell and really appreciate this. Let's kick it off by going way back in time. Growing up what films or filmmakers inspired you when you were a child?
DW: As a little kid growing up in the ‘70s I watched a lot of television and film and zeroed in on classic monster movies, The Six Million Dollar Man, Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes. Then in ‘77 Star Wars rocked my world and made me think about the craft of filmmaking and visual/special effects for the first time ever. I wanted to entertain others and share the exhilaration I felt walking out of that theatre for the first time. Subsequently, I began to read about how films were made. As I got older, I started paying close attention to the storytelling and directorial choices of George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner, John Landis, Oliver Stone, John Boorman, Peter Hyams, Nicholas Meyer, William Friedkin, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and John Carpenter, among many others.
GL: Star Wars is obviously such a huge turning point for many people and seems to be such a massive inspiration for that generation to get into the movie business. How did you first get into the industry? Did writing come first or working as crew?
DW: I was lucky. By high school I knew that I wanted to work in the film and entertainment industry. I studied film theory and production at Ithaca College, then moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams. First, landing production work on movies, TV shows, music videos and commercials, I got tired of the uncertainty of freelance life after about four years and went after staff jobs in film development. As a script reader writing coverage, I honed my writing, editing and storytelling skills, which came in handy when writing my own scripts and organising my own narratives. That ability and portfolio led to work in online entertainment and journalism.
GL: Any particular high points you'd like to tell us about? Who was your favourite interview and why?
DW: I honed my skills as an interviewer and as an editor at Entertainment Tonight over 13 years, and then at Famous Monsters magazine and The Hollywood Reporter and other outlets. I’ve interviewed an endless list of my pop-culture heroes — Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Mel Brooks, James Cameron, J.J. Abrams, Keanu Reeves, Stan Lee, Lynda Carter, Lee Majors, Susanna Hoffs, Dee Wallace, William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, John Carpenter, George Lazenby, Malcolm McDowell, John Landis, Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Guillermo del Toro, Robert Englund, you name ‘em — and its the ones that gave me extra time, who allowed me to make a more personal connection to the human behind the persona, that gave me the most satisfaction. As far as amount of time given, Martin Landau wins hands down. He sat with me for over four hours talking up his career and sharing off-the-record tales, essentially performing a one-man show for a one-person audience. It was an absolute thrill.
GL: Wow, so many legends on that list. When did the idea for In Search of Darkness germinate and can you tell us how the pieces for that came together?
DW: In Search of Darkness was the brainchild of executive producer Robin Block starting in 2018. I was hired as a writer-director-producer and was given the unique opportunity to shape his idea into a super-documentary that attempts to tackle one of the most explosive, groundbreaking and unwieldy decades in horror cinema.
GL: Couldn't agree with you more there. The 80's was a real shift forward for horror in so many ways. Where do you even begin with something like that?
DW: The best way to tell that story was to recruit close to 50 icons from the era — actors, directors, writers, composers, effects masters — alongside contemporary experts to deliver candid anecdotes of their experiences as well as share their love of ‘80s horror filmmaking. We had a core team — coming together remotely worldwide — working on the production, marketing and post-production of the film. It was a real labor of love by genuine horror fans for genuine horror fans.
GL: You were also involved with In Search of the Last Action Heroes documentary?
DW: In Search of the Last Action Heroes was directed by Oliver Harper and executive produced by Robin Block. After I began work on In Search of Darkness, Robin brought me on as a Last Action Heroes producer to secure and conduct a few of the film’s later interviews and to help guide the project over the finish line as necessary. I think they did a great job on that film.
GL: In Search of Darkness is probably the greatest documentary I've ever watched on horror films. It was great seeing so many legends sharing some insight and stories from their careers. Was there a particular person who was difficult to get and was there someone you tried to get who wouldn't or couldn't take part for some reason?
DW: We were fortunate to have so many talented individuals willingly offer up their time and brain-space for our film. Each interview lasted an average of an hour or more. If we had the time and budget to keep going, I would have gladly interviewed another 50 people. But I reluctantly had to draw the line somewhere. I was ultimately satisfied that we secured a broad spectrum of talent to tell this tale. For those who couldn’t align their schedule for us, or did not respond, I hope we can try again in the next installment of In Search of Darkness that we have in the works.
GL: Next instalment you say? Can't wait to hear more about that. Right now you're currently in the process of creating In Search of Tomorrow, a sort of 80's sci-fi sequel. How far are you along with that? Will it be the same sort of crowdfunded project as Darkness and should we expect more of the same awesome stuff?
DW: Our next film, In Search of Tomorrow, will tackle ‘80s Sci-Fi movies and begin Kickstarter crowdfunding on April 21 at 80sscifidoc.com. It will have a similar structure to In Search of Darkness in that it will be a four or five-hour superdoc that tackles the decade’s films year by year, with larger-context chapters in between that deconstruct the themes and key elements of the decade — socio-political context, motion-picture marketing and merchandising, visual effects, subgenres, future tech visions that have become reality, and much more.
GL: I'm already sold. Can you give us any more info on who's taking part?
DW: We’ve assembled an amazing cast of interview talent that’s growing weekly — including Dee Wallace and Henry Thomas from E.T.; Sam J. Jones of Flash Gordon; Nicholas Meyer, Walter Koenig, Adam Nimoy and Wil Wheaton of the Star Trek franchise; Sean Young talking up Blade Runner and Dune; Ernie Hudson on Ghostbusters, Spacehunter and Leviathan; visual effects masters such as Douglas Trumbull, Dennis Muren, and Phil Tippett; high-profile directors such as John Badham (WarGames, Blue Thunder, Short Circuit), Joe Dante (Gremlins, Explorers, Innerspace), Peter Hyams (Outland, 2010), John Carpenter (The Thing, Escape From New York, Starman, They Live) and Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop, Total Recall); recognisable talent from the Star Wars, Aliens, Predator, Terminator, RoboCop, Bill & Ted and Back to the Future franchises — and I’m incredibly excited to get to work on it!
GL: Well David everyone at The Fright Club is super excited for that too. And we know that if it's even half as good as 'In Search of Darkness' then we're all in for a glorious treat. Thank you so much for chatting to us and all the best on 'In Search of Tomorrow' and the follow up to 'In Search of Darkness' further down the line.
Check out the trailer for In Search of Darkness and if you haven't had the opportunity to see the film yet then we implore you to get in contact with CreaterVC, the company behind the production. It was originally only available for those who pre-ordered but I believe you can now purchase a copy on their support page.
Many thanks to David Weiner for being so generous and taking the time to answer our questions. You can follow him on Twitter @TikiAmbassador and also follow the official account for In Search of Darkness @80sHorrorDoc
Make sure to also follow the official account for In Search of Tomorrow @80sSciFiDoc to stay up with all updates going forward.
- Gavin Logan