A documentary about iconic horror movies of the 1980s seems to be a slam dunk in this day and age, when everything from Stranger Things to Ready Player One is giving Gen Xers like me nostalgiagasms ten to the dozen.
Director David Weiner has collected a rogues gallery of talent from in front of and behind the camera including Barbra Crampton, David Keith, John Carpenter, Heather Langenkamp, Bill Mosely, Cassandra Petersen (Elvira), Alex Winter, Joe Dante, Greg Nicotero, Mick Garris, Larry Cohen, Sean S Cunningham, Lloyd Kaufman and countless others. There are a few notable exceptions like John Landis, Robert Englund and Brad Dourif, but you wonder how much more you’d be able to take if everyone was in here.
At 260 minutes it’s probably the longest doco about a film movement you’ve ever seen. It’s broken roughly into films by year, with other sidebar-style asides on related topics like villains, effects, etc, and all that interview and film footage combines to build up a comprehensive – if very bottom-heavy – picture of the horror movies that made a generation.
It doesn’t discriminate for quality, and movies like Basket Case are right there alongside The Howling and The Fly, a lack of judgement that’s commendable (writer/director Weiner is a journalist, after all). If there’s one criticism it’s that’s despite the running time it can’t do much beyond skirting the surface of individual movies, making quick aside to ideas and effects the genre spawned like the Final Girl phenomenon. For that reason it starts to feel a bit too much in the final third (although the argument none of this is meant to be watched in a single sitting has merit).
If it tried less to cover every film made in the decade (and there are inevitable absences, like Aliens) and spent more time and energy looking at the decade like a scholar instead of a librarian, the weighty running time might have felt less like a slog.
But that’s not the movie Weiner set out to make, and you’ll find that on a million well informed and articulate blogs as well as several other documentaries anyway.
This is more like a wander through a video store with your fortysomething friend, both of you gushing over how cool and occasionally beautiful the cover artwork was, reminiscing about the starlets or hunks you fell in love with and your favourite kill scenes before moving on to the next VHS cover and exclaiming ‘hey, remember this one?!?’
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