In the Mouth of Madness
in the mouth of madness | john carpenter | michael de luca | sam neill | jurgen prochnow | julie carmen | based on | novel | h.p. lovecraft | lovecraftian | drama | mystery | thriller | united states | david warner | john glover | charlton heston | monster | monsters
Film: In the Mouth of Madness
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Michael De Luca
Starring: Sam Neill, Jürgen Prochnow and Julie Carmen
Now this one of the few John Carpenter horror films I had never seen. I actually don’t really remember this one growing up, as this was the era where I was really getting into horror. For whatever reason, this one I had missed until now. The synopsis is an insurance investigator begins discovering that the impact a horror writer’s books have on his fans is more than inspirational.
We start this film off with John Trent (Sam Neill). He is being escort to a cell inside of a mental institution. The doctor who admits him is Saperstein (John Glover). John doesn’t go in easy though, as he attacks the guards. They do finally get him locked up. There is then another doctor who arrives to speak with John, Dr. Wrenn (David Warner). When he gets there, John had requested a black crayon and the whole room, including his face and clothes, are covered in crosses. John begins his tale of what led him there.
John is actually a great insurance investigator. We actually see him as he is busting a guy for burning down a warehouse in order to collect the insurance money. John is then out to eat where Robinson (Bernie Casey) offers him a job. John declines, but is willing to take on another case. That’s when they’re attack by a madman with an ax. The police show up and take him out just in time.
The job brings John to Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston). They’re joined in their meeting by Linda Styles (Julie Carmen). They want John to see what happened to their best writer, Sutter Cane. He is supposed to have a new book coming out, but he’s disappeared. John agrees to take on the job.
Sutter is considered the best writer in the world. There are riots happening though, as some readers of his work seem to go mad. The man that attacked John with the ax was actually his agent. John picks up Sutter’s previous novels to see if he can get a lead from them. He does discover something that makes him believe that the town of Hobb’s End, which is supposed to be fictional, might actually exist. Jackson wants John and Styles to go find it and try to see if Sutter is there.
This then leads them on a dark, nightmarish journey that will take them right to the name of Sutter’s new novel, the mouth of madness.
Having now seen this film, I’m actually quite upset that I hadn’t seen it before. This film actually ticks off a lot of things I really enjoy. I should also point out here that this is adapted from an H.P. Lovecraft story, so I do really want to seek out the tale it is based off of and see what his original story actually had.
What I really about this is that I love the investigation aspect of it. John is the best and he is already picking up on clues pretty quickly into this. There also becomes the aspect if there is actually free will or not. I don’t want to spoil the film and this one is actually really difficult to talk about without doing that, but being that Sutter (Jürgen Prochnow) is a writer, some aspects of this film make you believe if John is really doing any of this or is he just descending into madness. I do love that Sutter is supposed to be Stephen King, even though the film says he’s bigger than him. Sutter is a horror writer who lives in New Hampshire. All very close including the name.
The nightmare quality to the film is great as well. It is interesting to start the film with John being escorted to a cell. He doesn’t think he is crazy, but we see a lot of evidence that goes against it. I actually started to question it as well because we go back to what lead him there. When they get to Hobb’s End, you don’t know what is real and what’s not. It gets even worse when we see some characters and things that are happening are straight from a book. Being that this is Lovecraft, there is the elder gods’ angle as well which I love.
I do have to say that this film is paced pretty well also. I never got bored and I really just wanted to know more about what we are seeing. A lot of films that have the investigation aspect like this usually suck me in. This one I do feel also has rewatchability. Now that I’ve seen it and I know what happens, I really want to watch it again to see what I might have missed. I like how it ends and the implications of this new novel from Sutter. The ending scene is absolutely amazing as well, as I finally know where the meme featuring Neill came from.
This film is definitely helped out by the acting. Neill is great in this film. He has that smug arrogance about him early on. We see that slowly crumbling as he descends into madness. I think that is great and I really believe what I’m seeing. Carmen is solid as well. What is interesting about her, she is nervous from the beginning, but she’s read all of Sutter’s works. She believes well before John and I like that we have that duality there for a good portion. Prochnow is solid in his role as well as Warner, Glover, Casey and Heston. It was also funny to see Frances Bay in this film as well. I’d say the acting was good and definitely rounded out the film for what was needed.
On to the effects of the film, which I had a smile on my face when I saw Greg Nicotero’s name and KNB. With that said, the practical effects were great. I really got a feel of like The Thing, which kind of makes sense with Carpenter being the director. There are definitely some nightmare creatures and they look so real. I’d say that the blood and gore that we do get is also pretty good. The film is shot very well and really helps that feel of being a nightmare.
Something that I was surprised about was the soundtrack. We did get a Metallica sounding song to kick us off which I liked. The rest of the score didn’t really stand out, which is surprising for a Carpenter film. It never took me out of scenes, but I can’t really recall it while writing this.
Now with that said this film is one that I really ended up enjoying and glad that I could finally tick it off of my unseen films list. I really like the investigation aspect of the film as that is something I tend to do when I get interested in something. I like that there’s a writer here who could be influencing his readers. The Lovecraftian angle is something I’m always a fan of as well. The pacing is solid, I never got bored and it definitely moves at a good clip. How the film ended was something I’m down for. Acting for the film was good and the effects were great. The soundtrack didn’t really stand out for the most part which was surprising, but I also don’t have anything negative to say about it. I ended up really liking this one and would definitely recommend giving it a viewing. I would say that this is a good movie overall.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10