Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Sam Neill, Jurgen Prochnow, Julie Carmen and Charlton Heston
Released February 3, 1995
A publishing firm hires a man to look into the disappearance of their best-selling author, a horror novelist whose works can drive people to madness and his latest nobel may actually bring about the end of the world.
The film opens with John Trent (Neill) being entered into a psychiatric hospital and later visited by an investigator (played by David Warner.) Apparently things are not alright in the world, evil things are happening and maybe Trent has an idea of what’s going on. Trent begins to weave a tall tale that begins with his job as an insurance investigator and taking on a claim from a book publishing firm who has an author, the Stephen King-like Sutter Cane, who’s gone missing and his new book is due.
Trent begins to read Cane’s novels while trying to find an angle as to why Cane or the publishing firm would fake the disappearance. Trent begins to see disturbing visions while investigating but he finds out where Cane may be and, along with Cane’s editor Linda (Carmen) goes on a road trip to find Cane and put an end to the charade…until things literally go to hell when he finally arrives to find Cane.
The film has a few creepy moments but really goes berserk once they arrive in the little, and fictional, town of Hobb’s End. Cane has tapped into some otherworldly powers and his novels actually come to life. He reasons that more people read and believe in his novels over the Bible and the more people reading his writing, the more powerful the evil becomes. He gives Trent the manuscript to deliver while blowing Trent’s mind that he too is a fictional character in his book, which Trent tries to prove wrong but is driven to a mental breaking point with the increasing realization that he may not actually exist all the while the world goes to hell around him.
It’s certainly a wild tale, something I don’t think I appreciated the first time I saw it almost twenty years ago. The H.P. Lovecraft-inspired story is full of twists and turns designed to confuse and shock the viewer. It could’ve been a big mess, these style of movies can have complicated stories and can lose the audience if its too hard to follow but it’s thanks to John Carpenter and star Sam Neill who really make the film worth investing in. The film takes its time to spin the story and slowly build up to the finale. Is it scary? You probably won’t be on the edge of your seat, the film is more about the tension which the film does a good job of building.
The film isn’t the bloody mess that some of John Carpenter’s previous films are or comparable to Stuart Gordon’s takes on Lovecraft such as From Beyond and Re-Animator. While there is some blood shown, most of the violence is done off screen. This is a psychological thriller afterall, not a gorefest, but there are some seriously creepy moments that I won’t give away but you’ll never see them coming.
“In the Mouth of Madness” is one of Carpenter’s better movies from the latter part of his career, certainly better than his take on “Village of the Damned” that came out a mere two months later, but it’s lack of success contributed to his decline, unfortunately. Lovecraft horror isn’t for everyone, it can be very strange and hard to understand so I kind of get why it has more of a cult following than a large fanbase. If you’re willing to invest the time to pay attention to the story build, you may find a fun and freaky flick to watch.
Story: 8 – Full of twists and turns that will keep you on your toes as the build goes all the way up until the end of the film so you may never figure it out until the credits roll.
Blood: 3 – There are some disgusting looking creatures to look at and a few trickles of blood shown, most of the gruesome stuff is off screen.
Nudity: 1 – Naked old guys count, right?
Overall: 7 – Definitely not up everyone’s alley, but it’s really fun watching Sam Neill go slowly insane as the movie goes on.
-Director John Carpenter was offered the script back in the late 80s but declined until it came back to him in 1993 when he decided to do it.
-This is the third film in what Carpenter dubs his “Apocalypse Trilogy.” The other two films are “The Thing” and “Prince of Darkness” which share similar end of the world-style endings.
-There are many allusions and references to H.P. Lovecraft’s works, notably “The Cthulu Mythos.”
-The character of Sutter Cane is a none too subtle reference to Stephen King, who is even referenced in the film.