John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness is a strange movie that sits somewhere between horror and comedy never really picking a side. Unlike the other two movies in his Apocalypse Trilogy, The Thing and Prince of Darkness, it wasn’t really scary. There were just a few graphic scenes and that’s it. However, it maintained this atmosphere of impending doom where you don’t know what’s going to happen next. It felt like you’re walking through someone’s living nightmare. And like you’re reading a book which is another nice touch since the story is about a horror writer.
Same as in Prince of Darkness we will have a reasonable man trying to make sense of unreasonable events. Science, superstition, and religion collide in this fast-paced and entertaining movie driven by Sam Neil’s incredible performance. I have to admit that when I saw this movie back in the nineties for the first time, I really didn’t like it. I was expecting more, much more from such a talented writer and director. However, as I got older I started to appreciate it more. Especially since In the Mouth of Madness is chock full of Lovecraft references.
Sadly, most of these elements remain unexplored or fully developed. And the same goes for the main story that feels directionless. The only thing that’s holding all of these things together is Sam Neil and his character. And if you focus on him and his perception of events, you will have some fun with In the Mouth of Madness. I feel like this would be a great television show or a miniseries considering just how rich the lore is.
Meet John Trent, a very smart and resourceful insurance agent. After foiling another scheme, he’s hired by Arcane Publishing to locate one of their writers, Sutter Cane. So, John sets off once again to find out what’s Sutter angle and why he disappeared. Soon, he will find more than he bargained for.
As you might have noticed, this movie explores the feeling of dread and horror that certain novels can create. Moreover, it delves deep into them, trying to visually portray this process. If you’re a fan of horror novels and writers like Stephen King, who’s mentioned more than once here, you will enjoy In the Mouth of Madness that much more. I also must add that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. I mean, how could it be with a plot like this and especially that surprise ending. This along with humor saved the atmosphere from becoming too pretentious and dull.
Finally, if you’re looking for movies like this, I highly recommend you check out Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond. It’s actually based on one of Lovecraft’s stories and offers a much tighter and more concise plot. And if you’re up for something more modern but still nightmarishly Lovecraftian, Color Out of Space is a great choice.
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Michael De Luca
Cast: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Charlton Heston, Frances Bay, Jürgen Prochnow, John Glover
Fun Facts: The black church is Cathedral of the Transfiguration, Markham, Ontario, Canada.