[Bea’s Reviews] In The Mouth Of Madness (1994)

“In The Mouth Of Madness” (1994)

In The Mouth Of Madness

In The Mouth of Madness‘ is a film by John Carpenter that has a special place in my heart, not because it was slapped like a red-haired step-child (why that phrase is used confounds me) badly upon it’s release (Why? Because it was intelligent and dared to be different?) but because it shows Carpenter at his best when he has control of his project with minimal interference by high-falutin’ studios. It is not necessarily a scary movie (at least not to me), but it has a brilliant unsettling atmosphere to it, why, one could almost say this movie is what would have happened if Carpenter and H.P Lovecraft met…

Because it IS! Muahahaha!

In 2003, John Carpenter wrote a introduction to a comic book that told a fictional account of Lovecraft’s life, saying- “Most people who have watched my movies will notice my recognition of [those footprints of Howard Phillips Lovecraft]. From Innsmouth references in ‘The Fog’, to the general premise of ‘In The Mouth of Madness‘, I have used the tools of cinema to put my own spin on the Lovecraftian mythos.” This being such an obvious statement aside, his sonnet to Lovecraft in this movie is certainly fit to be considered Lovecraftian because it does stay true to Lovecraft’s unique brand of terror all the while keeping Carpenter in his horror element.

John Trent (Sam Neill) works for a book publishing firm (with none other than Charlton Heston as his manager in an inspired cameo), and when one of their most distinguished and popular clients, Sutter Cain, goes missing, complete with his manuscripts, Trent and a fellow college Styles, (Julie Carmen) track Cain’s last known whereabouts to Hobb’s End, a sleepy little town that does not show up on any map. Once there, they look for the elusive Cain, but find many other things in his stead, strange things… frightening things.

In The Mouth Of Madness 02

In the interest of not being spoilery and good taste, look at these bunnies.

I’m not going to say any more than that plot-wise, but trust me, this movie deserves a better reputation than what it already has. While fellow director Stuart Gordon is the go-to guy when it comes to modernising Lovecraft for today’s audiences, Carpenter’s passion for the writer’s work is evident. Some of you may be familiar with Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy which involves ‘The Thing’, ‘Prince of Darkness’ and this film, all of which deal with the end of the human race due to means we cannot and perhaps wouldn’t want to understand. In this case, the apocalypse is brought around by a work of fiction that is so powerful that it ends up turning the world and the people who live in it upside down. In this case, it is Cain’s wild tales of monsters, dimensional travel and age-old cosmic beings that bring forth the twilight of humanity.

A belief that I have is that all of Carpenter’s films have some sly satirical edge (excluding the obvious context of ‘They Live!’), in ‘Madness’s case, it is a commentary on religion and how fundamentalist mass belief can bring about destruction. When you consider a religious work such as The Bible, what is, at least from an academic point of view, a fairy tale book, despite it’s fantastical tales, people out there believe this book to be the truth, or at least parts of it. The result of such a blind belief has been countless wars, unresolved disputes, double standards on top of countless other atrocities, all because of folks who take an idea and twist it to suit their means, never taking into consideration the needs of others. On a lesser (but still, in my opinion, destructive) scale, the ‘Twilight’ phenomenon has taken the world by storm, and there are girls (and older women) out there who want their very own Edward Cullen, on the real. How scary is that?!

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Waxing philosophical aside (and really, I could go on and on about the discrepancies about the interpretation of religion and faith), this is a fine horror film with likeable performances, trippy visual effects and a compelling narrative. You may not piss your pants and you may sleep just fine after you see it, but this is one of Carpenter’s best films of the 90’s that still rings loud and clear today. If you are a horror fan, do yourself a favour and see it. You will be rewarded. To those critics who panned this movie due to your narrow-mindedness and likewise sense of perspective, I ask you…

In The Mouth Of Madness 04

“Do you read Sutter Cain?”

Review written by Bea Harper


A solid four stars (and a big F-you to critics who never gave this movie a chance)


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