"Do you read Sutter Cane?"
In the Mouth of Madness (1994) is a Lovecraftian horror film directed by John Carpenter. Unlike the previous Lovecraft films I've reviewed so far, In the Mouth of Madness is not based on any one H.P. Lovecraft tale but contains countless references to much of Lovecraft's entire body of work and has an original story, told in a very Lovecraftian style.
John Trent is an Insurance Investigator, simply put he excels in exposing fraud. But when a series of weird real-life incidents start happening around a popular horror writer's work (and hitting a little too close to Trent's personal life) he embarks on a mission to try and find the missing writer and see if he can expose what's really happening with these weird events. Is it all coincidence, or just a big PR campaign... or could it be something bigger?
Most of the effects in this film still hold up really well! This is obviously due to John Carpenter being a master at what he does and loves practical effects. I think the only effect that doesn't really hold up as well is the model for Mrs. Pickman. Which is surprising because it's a pretty memorable part.
Once the film sets out all the pieces it then spirals into madness very quickly. Maybe this was the film's intent but I would have preferred there to be some more time before John Trent starts going crazy, some more vague area like well the entire film of American Psycho (2000) would have people going back over and over and debating about what is real and what's not and at what point everything goes to hell for our protagonist.
I also didn't like the end. It's a little too on the nose for me. I liked all the comments leading up into the end about how there's going to be a movie but to have the protagonist sitting down and watching events from the movie we just watched, that's a bit too meta for my taste. Granted, I can't think of a better way to end it personally, I just know I didn't love that one.
In the Mouth of Madness combines so many different Lovecraftian tropes together in one story that it really shouldn't work as well as it does. However under the veil of our protagonist losing his mind they all work super well together. The film starts in a madhouse and works backwards which is a very Lovecraftian thing to do, and there's tons of specific references to characters and creatures from lots of different Lovecraft stories. It really is the perfect love letter to H.P. Lovecraft.
These tropes combined with great directing equal legitimate horror, and a whole range of it too. From well earned jump scares to really creepy moods and moments. You want good horror, look no further.
I also feel like a lot of this film working has to do with how great Sam Neill is as our protagonist, John Trent. This was literally his next big movie after Jurassic Park (1993) and he's just as good in this as he was in that. He makes for a really interesting and compelling character that I think would've been a whole lot less interesting with a different actor in the lead, and this makes me want to see more of his films!
And lastly, the film only touches on it for an instant but I loved the point that Sutter Cane brings up about an author being closer to a God than religion will ever know. This is some really deep stuff, and even though it only gets swept in for a second if you want to ponder on it, there's enough there to warrant a re-watch. Awesome stuff.
In the Mouth of Madness (1994) is a great horror film by a real master director. There's so much of this film that shoudn't work as well as it does and I think this is all due to John Carpenter's skill. One of the best films about madness ever created.
Tomorrow we continue the Lovecraft-Stuart Gordon streak with the direct to video, Castle Freak (1995) on the 31 Nights of Macabre Movies.
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