Interview: David Weiner, writer/director of In Search of Darkness Part II

In Search of Darkness Part II

Last year’s 80s horror documentary “In Search of Darkness” was so comprehensive at four and a half hours, you’d have thought there was nothing else to say.

Far from it. The team behind the movie realised there was so much they didn’t cover they started all over again, and “In Search of Darkness Part II” is another behemoth, looking further afield from the usual suspects and bringing some of the biggest genre names back to talk about their experiences.

“In Search of Darkness” writer/director David Weiner returned to the director’s chair late last year and things were just getting started when a real horror movie started in the form of a global pandemic that shut down one industry after another – most visibly, the movies.

But after the community of online discussions and watch parties became such a pivotal part of “In Search of Darkness”, Weiner and his team might have been onto something. In very short order, Zoom meetings and virtual film screenings became the new normal, movie theatres the world over going dark.

But as he tells from his socially distanced home office near Burbank, California, time is running out to be part of it. The first film only had a virtual second life because of invites from other forums including horror, thriller and genre streaming service Shudder.

But when the presale period ended a lot of fans missed out, expecting it to show up in iTunes or Amazon. The “In Search of Darkness” team never planned for other outlets, and “In Search of Darkness Part II” is no different. Its only availability is during the presale period that ends at midnight on Halloween.

But despite the restricted access, “In Search of Darkness” garnered the kind of devotion and love among fans you’d expect from the horror community, and Part II is set to do the same. talked to Weiner about pandemics, horror and the future of community-curated movies.


What stage is “In Search of Darkness Part II” at?

“In Search of Darkness Part II” is in the can. All the interviews are done. The rough cut is delivered. The legal cut has been approved and we’re now in the fine tuning stage. It’s going to be done and delivered in the next couple weeks and everyone’s going to be able to see it starting November 17th.

How do fans get it?

What we’re doing right now is having a sale currently that ends on Halloween at midnight. It’s a presale where people can get their name in the credits and they get all sorts of cool stuff with it – posters, the soundtrack, a digital copy of the movie, digital copy of Part 1 and an actual copy of the film, whether it’s Blu-ray or DVD, that’s going to be shipped in December.

If you’re a fan of 80s horror it’s a pretty attractive package because you get around nine hours back to back of 80s horror goodness and jump on this online community with like-minded fans who are all enthusiastic about these movies. You can chit chat with them, share your cool collections, talk about your favourite moments and have watch parties together with a lot of the stars and filmmakers themselves.

Tom Savini
Tom Savini in “In Search of Darkness Part II”

So Part 2 is another epic of over four hours, like Part 1 was?

Part 2 is 4 1/2 hours. I couldn’t skimp on it, there’s such a wealth of material and it was very important that we continue this story using the same structure as the first one. It chronicles 1980 to 1989, the films of each year, then there are chapters between them that deal with the larger contexts.

This time around I did 23 interviews with 15 brand new faces including Robert Englund, Linnea Quigley, Nancy Allen, Tom Savini, Clancy Brown and Shinya Tsukamoto, director of “Tetsuo: The Iron Man”.

Sounds like you’re expanding your horizons beyond America and Hollywood this time.

[Tsukamoto] is very unique. Including him demonstrates our absolute desire to get a broader worldview. The first time around the movie was very American-centric and that was a decision I made somewhat reluctantly, but because there are just hundreds of movies that came out in the 1980s it was the best way to get a handle on such an time of explosive creativity.

This time I really wanted to go beyond that. Listen to the fans and the feedback saying ‘I love this movie, but where’s x, y and z?’ This time around I did a whole chapter on Italian horror and covered a bunch of movies from Fulci and Argento and Bava. From Australia we covered Russel Mulcahy’s “Razorback”, New Zealand with “Bad Taste” and Peter Jackson.

Also “Cannibal Holocaust”, “Faces of Death”. The video nasties in the UK. “The Omen III”, some of those franchises that don’t get all the love in the later entries like Jason, Freddy and Michael did. It was very important to demonstrate that everyone around the globe was contributing amazing stuff to 80s horror.

Alternative poster design for "In Search of Darkness Part II"
Alternative poster design for “In Search of Darkness Part II”

Why stick with the same structure?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. At first I thought ‘how do we evolve from this’? But given the volume of material the dream was to go another four and a half hours. I delivered a five hour rough cut but the DVD disc itself can only hold about four and a half hours of material, literally just in terms of data. So I had to cut back. There are a bunch of darlings I had to kill that are sitting on the cutting room floor.

But the structure is tried and true and people responded to it very positively. It allows for the kind of ultimate survey of the decade that prompts people to do their own exploration. You know, it works as the ultimate curation where you get a taste of everything in this amazing international buffet of horror films now.

Any differences in the secondary chapters that aren’t just talking about a given year?

The thing was, now that we had Tom Savini or Nancy Allen or Robert Englund, we’d already covered things like “Dressed to Kill” and “Creepshow” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” last time. The challenge this time was how to bring them into the conversation without redoing those individual segments.

So we created individual chapters for them, those three people as well as Linnea Quigley. It’s them talking about their own careers. So, you know, Englund talks about his whole career trajectory, his early days on stage, his early TV and movie work. How that led to “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and then what went beyond, working on “Phantom of the Opera” in 1989 or directing “976-Evil”.

Linnea Quigley
Linnea Quigley in ‘In Search of Darkness Part II”

The first “In Search of Darkness” only came out a year ago. It seems the sequel came together a lot faster.

We finished “In Search of Darkness: a calendar year ago, on October 6th, and serendipitously we made this movie available with the presale starting October 6th a calendar year later.

While we were putting “In Search of Darkness Part II” together we actually kind of had one hand tied behind our backs, there was a three month stretch where we couldn’t do any new production because of COVID19.

A lot of the people that we lined up for Part 2 weren’t comfortable coming out and and masking up. We shot the interviews in a soundstage in Burbank where it was just myself and the cameraman, Oktay Ortabasi. He wore a mask the whole time, I was masked up and we were all 12 feet apart. We took COVID precautions very, very seriously and did everything we could to feel safe. But some people just didn’t want to come out and I absolutely respect that.

So I’m very proud of what we have accomplished in a very short period of time.

At another four and a half hours, many would assume you’d used a lot of what you didn’t have room for first time around.

From beginning to end there’s nothing reused, it’s all brand new material. All brand new interviews, brand new discussions, brand new topics and brand new movies.

What was most interesting was that so much of that led me to realise when we had a great tangent or a great conversation that let us expand and build a whole new thing, material that I might not have come up with myself had the conversation not naturally gravitated that way.

A lot of the the conversations in the chapters is just organically grown, so to speak, and we were able to position it where it really tells a great Part 2 story.

Robert Englund
Robert Englund in “In Search of Darkness Part II”

Must have been quite a feat.

We were tired. We had the same team as before, I scripted it top to bottom. Samuel Way is back editing it so it’s gonna fly just like it flew the first time. Our executive producer is Robin Block, this is his baby and we’re all working for a great team at his company Creator VC. we’re doing all the production, all the financing, all the marketing and all the distribution ourselves. It’s a tight knit group of about 13 or 14 people.

If you had so much footage and material and it was so hard trimming down even to four and a half hours, surely what you had would lend itself to a longer series on a streaming service? Did you ever consider going that way?

Oh, it absolutely occurred to us and many, many people said it would make a good 10-episode series, year by year or something to that effect.

But that takes a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of resources. All the blood, sweat and tears we put into this project is to get the maximum return. Going through a main distributor which takes a cut kind of diminishes the effort you put in from a financial return standpoint, it’s just not feasible in terms of time and effort to do that.

We also kind of prove that if you build it they will come. The fans have demonstrated they not only have the patience and tolerance but the appetite for long form documentaries. It’s really easy to drop it and pick it up again the way it goes year by year and chapter by chapter. So yes, we definitely thought about it, but this is more feasible for our needs.

poster design
Alternate poster design for “In Search of Darkness Part II”

“In Search of Darkness” was such a community effort with the crowd sourcing and the Advisor Circle. If you did take the streaming avenue would you be afraid of losing something, the community-driven spirit if not creative control?

I don’t have a definitive answer because I still feel like you could build a Discord community around the project. What’s unique about the Discord community for “In Search of Darkness” is that you have access to the filmmakers and the team. We’re bringing filmmakers and creatives to the fans to interact while they watch their favourite movies.

You could still do that in a parallel world whether you’re holding a disc in your hands or watching a digital copy or streaming it on Shudder or Netflix.

But there is something a little more homegrown about the way we did it and the more eyes get to see a project it spins a bit out of your control. Maybe that’s a perception, but I think when you keep it tight with a core group of supporters and followers who are incredibly enthusiastic it’s kind of a gift we all kind of privately share.

You did have a couple of festival and theatrical screenings for Part I, but the movies you’re making with Creator VC have different economics from distributors and box office. What’s the measure of success?

The measure of success is the engagement and sales and word of mouth. Building a community on top of a product where you can create a way of life to a certain degree.

Word of mouth has been so positive and we have the proof from “In Search of Darkness”. We did “In Search of the Last Action Heroes”, then we did “In Search of Darkness” and then in crowd funding we did “In Search of Tomorrow”, the sci-fi documentary, and that’s exceeded our wildest expectations.

It demonstrated not only a broader audience than horror (in sci-fi), but a nostalgia for the 80s, and how those two are connected. But also in building an audience for the films so we have confidence in our product and the culture we’re building around it.

The other thing about festival screenings for the first “In Search of Darkness” was that we never intended to go to festivals. Usually you have to submit to them, pay an application fee, they consider it, it’s all part and parcel of getting in that circuit.

We had no less than seven festivals around the globe literally saying ‘we’d love to screen your film’. So we played in in your native Australia at Monsterfest, we screened at in in Argentina, Greece, Greece, Italy. I wanna say Norway. Brazil. I mean all over the map.

Nancy Allen
Nancy Allen in “In Search of Darkness Part II”

What stage is “In Search of Tomorrow” at?

It’s already in production. We would have been more actively in production had COVID not sidelined things, but as I was doing production for “In Search of Darkness Part II” I was concurrently getting interviews for “In Search of Tomorrow”. There is some crossover with some of the talent. There are many brand new interviews to happen at the end of this year and the beginning of next.

But it’s already outlined, it’s already being filmed and we’re aiming to get it out in a years time, slightly less.

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