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In the Mouth of Madness
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The mind-bending worlds of author H.P. Lovecraft have long interested horror directors, but the films have rarely successfully captured his nightmarish mix of madness and mythology. John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness is not directly based on
The mind-bending worlds of author H.P. Lovecraft have long interested horror directors, but the films have rarely successfully captured his nightmarish mix of madness and mythology. John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness is not directly based on Lovecraft's work, but screenwriter Michael De Luca draws his inspiration from Lovecraft's Cthulu mythology and then adds his own ingenious twists. John Trent (Sam Neill), an insurance investigator recently fitted for a straightjacket, tells his story to a psychiatrist. Hired to track down the missing pop-horror phenomena Sutter Cane, a Stephen King-like author whose fans are literally made for his books, Trent finds the supposedly fictional Hobb's End. He watches the town collapse into madness, murder, and monstrous transformations: the fantastic horrors of Cane's novels played out in front of his eyes. "Reality isn't what it used to be," deadpans one zombielike townsperson. In fact, it is how Cane writes it--but is he Devil, dark oracle, or simply a preacher in the service of an evil that grows stronger with every soul his books convert? The script never quite gets a grip on the blurry relationship between fact and fiction, but those details fade in the face of Carpenter's demented imagery, shiver-inducing twists, and dark wit. It's more eerie mind game than straight-out horror, a portrait of a world gone mad, and Carpenter relishes every hallucinatory moment. --Sean AxmakerSee all Editorial Reviews
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The movie, on the otherhand is anything but boring. I had been a Carpenter fan for quite some time when I went to see this in the theater. Most of Carpenter's films seemed to be centered around a certain atmosphere. IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is wrapped around a concept. If enough people believe something, does it become reality?
Sam Neill plays John Trent, an insurance investigator who specializes in smoking out con artists. He is hired to find Sutter Cane (played with relish by Jurgen Prochnow), the world's leading author. The search leads to a town that shouldn't exist; Hobb's End, a town featured prominently in Sutter Cane's books.
What follows is a mixture of John Carpenter atmosphere, H.P. Lovecraftian madness, and deep concepts. Even if you don't want to think that much, you can still enjoy the film for it's terrifying beauty, disturbing images, and great performances by a fine cast that includes Charlton Heston and Bernie Casey. Although not taken directly from any one H.P. Lovecraft story, the locations and creatures are probably the best depiction of Cthulhu-type content ever filmed. Even the title of the movie sounds very much like "In The Mountains of Madness", a Lovecraft story. It does a fine job of honoring Lovecraft's work without copying any of his ideas directly.
If I was grading the film by itself it would definately get 5 stars, but I am rating the DVD as a whole. I must take off a star for the horrible commentary track. The DVD comes in a paper case with a plastic snap lock. Hopefully someone will release a deluxe edition of this picture and add some meaty extras, but until then, get this DVD if you enjoy a good scare.
One of John Carpenter's last truly scary films. An all-around gem.
Sam Neill stars as insurance investigator John Trent who's hired by publishing editor Jackson Harglow (played by Charlton Heston in a brief role) to find one of their star novelist: the extremely popular horror novelist, Sutter Crane (played with weird creepiness by Jurgen Prochnow). It seems Crane has disappeared and cut off all contact with his handlers just as his latest horror novel's released. Throughout the beginning of the film there's a sense that Crane's latest book has more than an entertaining effect on those who've bought and read it. Homicidal individuals Trent encounters throughout the film and all linked to Crane's book and what he thought was a fictional New England town used in all of Crane's books. The town of Hobb's End was a definite homage to Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft who also created the fictional towns of Castle Rock and Arkham to locate many of their stories.
Neill does a great job of conveying Trent's bewildered, confused and ultimate descent into the mouth of madness Crane's writings seem to have opened in reality itself. From the weirdly peculiar to obscenely homicidal going ons by the townspeople of Hobb's End, Trent's logical nature is put to the test by the Lovecraftian situations and events he witnesses as his search for Sutter Crane leads from him from one horror to the next. The characters created by Lovecraft in his Cthulhu Mythos were never mentioned in Michael De Luca's script but the essense of these otherworldly beings of pure malice and evil permeates throughout the film. There's never been a successful attempt to film a Lovecraft story into a feature-lenght production, but In the Mouth of Madness comes close to achieving it. Even the wooden and under-inspired performance by Julie Carmen as Linda Styles, as Crane's literary agent and Trent's partner in his search, couldn't bring this film down. Carpenter does a great job of taking De Luca's script and creating a story where reality and madness slowly and inexorably begin to mesh to the point neither Trent or the audience knows what is real anymore. The end of the film was great in that Carpenter eschews the usual happy ending of most horror movies and instead finishes the madness he started and sees it through its end just like Trent.
In the Mouth of Madness showed that John Carpenter was still a master of his craft when given the right script to work with. He mixes to great effect homages to works of both Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. His film also does a great job of instilling not just fear and horror of the unknown, but also that of losing one's mind and not knowing whats real and what's not. Despite not doing great business in the box-office, In the Mouth of Madness was a very good film that people in 1995 weren't just prepared to appreciate.
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