In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, Charlton Heston .USA/Canada. 1h 35m

This epic slice of classic horror and the final piece of his Apocalypse Trilogy seems to be John Carpenter’s homage to a lot of the great names in literary horror, from HP Lovecraft to Stephen King he carves out a creepy tale which every horror writer has probably dreamt of, and that’s the ability to make their horror very real and literally jump of the page and effect their readers, getting all up in their grills. Anything to stop those whiney kids to stop complaining that nothing scares them huh?

Carpenter is no stranger to directing horror movies, being one of the bigger names for decades, sometimes leads a director to experiment and maybe spread themselves to thinly, while I really don’t feel i’m in the position to criticise someone who I really admire and who has done so much, I do feel that that between the years of 1992 – 2001 his films were a little less polished than his earlier cult classics, for whatever reasons. ITMOM came from an era which I view as his lowest yet this is a blinding achievement and has a small but constant cult following, but what’s not to love about a story about bending reality and insane writers with a direct connection to the great old ones. This works okay in horror novels but on the screen Carpenter really amped up the fear with dramatic cutscenes, dreams within dreams and shocking quick zooms on crazy monsters that appear and reappear, works so much better on screen and in the capable hands of Carpenter there’s a certain kind of cinematic magic at work here.

Sam Neil stars as John Trent a quick thinking freelance insurance investigator, he works with cold hard facts and once he smells blood in the water he goes in for the kill, his latest task is to find a missing writer, Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) who’s books seem to have a profound effect on his audience who are growing by the day. Strangely the biggest selling horror writer has gone missing days before his new book is due for release, so Trent immediately gets on the case by collecting all of Cane’s new books and begins to dig in. Soon he find a secret code in the covers of Ains novels and is so on the road with the sultry Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), Canes editor, who also has a vested interest.Movie Background and intro dilemmas

A reality is just what we tell each other it is

There are lots of jump scares throughout the beginning of the movie, crazed axe men breaking through windows with freaky eyes, demonic police officers and all sorts but Trent is pretty happy to just cast all this aside as usual stuff, he’s a logical man and is a bit too occupied with his next pay cheque, but is this just a social commentary that we all turn a blind eye to the madness? As Trent and Styles drive into the distance, looking for a fictional town which doesn’t appear on the map things begin to get way more sinister, as they discover Hobbs End, a town which Sutter Cane wrote about but doesn’t show up on the map, they read his books as they wander through the sleepy settlement, finding a inexplicable “black” church where Cane is finishing his book but his presence seems to spark a mania and the film and story beings to collapse on itself, reality becomes the book which falls into the movie, which then tumbles into a book again but that’s a reality with a reality, it gets a bit confusing for those who aren’t paying attention as Trent begins to believe in the power of the writer as those niggling things which he was easy to dismiss are soon crashing through doors and squirming towards him.

There’s a strong supporting cast in this movie, mostly little cameo’s like Charlton Heston who pops in for a few minutes and Wilhelm von Homburg even crops up as a father battered by his 6 year old demonic child, giving a useful addition to the mash up in Hobbs End, but even with on par acting, brilliant cutting and direction and that dreamy effect when the children are running through the town which was evident in IT (1990) which slows down to emphasize the eeriness and it’s really effective. But what kidna let the movie down was the application of special effects. I admire that Carpenter kept everything practical, with everything from contortionist in suits to claymation but it was just a bit rushed and blaise, instead the pulsating monsters and tentacled weirdo’s are all a bit puppetry now, if there was the wet nasty viceral fleshy monsters from the 1982 classic then this film would be an absolutely perfect trippy adventure into true insanity dipped in fiction.

: 7/10

R: Prince of Darkness (1987), Carnival Row (2019), They Live (1988), Book of Blood (2009), The Thing (1982)
L: HP Lovecraft in Cinema, Rating Carpenter
5s: Sam Neil, Jürgen Prochnow,

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