In The Mouth Of Madness
Give a hoot. Read a book.
What is reality? Is it what we think and feel or is it something tangible that we can touch and mold? I don't know, I'm not a psychology major. What I do know is that a lot of horror movies like to ask that question. It's mostly used as an excuse to shoot all sorts of crazy things and get away with it? Want the walls to melt? Question reality! Want your main character to rip his own face off? Question reality! Want to see another show staring the Kardashians? Punch yourself in the face AND question reality! Regardless of how you feel in regards to the esoteric questions of life and reality, you have to admit, it allows for some crazy things to happen in a movie.
In The Mouth Of Madness is a 1995 horror movie written by Michael De Luca (Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, Judge Dredd) and directed by John Carpenter (The Thing, Prince Of Darkness). The movie stars Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Event Horizon) as private investigator John Trent. Trent is committed to an insane asylum where he is visited by Dr. Wrenn (David Warner, Titanic, Tron) to recount his story of how he ended up there. After solving a case, Trent is attacked by an ax-wielding maniac who asks him if he reads horror author Sutter Cain's (Jurgen Prochnow, Das Boot, Beverly Hills Cop II) work before being shot by police. Trent was hired by Arcane Publishing director Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston, Planet Of The Apes, The Ten Commandments) to track down the now-missing Cane. Cane's work is immensely popular, garnering a rabid fan-base. Fights and riots have broken out by people pre-ordering his latest book, In The Mouth Of Madness. Harglow assigns Cane's editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen, True Women, Fright Night Part 2) to join Trent in his search. After reading Cane's books, Trent begins to experience very intense and very realistic nightmares of deformed monsters coming after him. Styles explains that Cane's work is known to cause hallucinations and paranoia among his more "unstable" readers. Trent discovers that the covers to Cane's work are actually a map of New Hampshire and show the way to Hobb's End, a supposedly fictional town. Trent and Styles somehow manage to find the town which is laid out exactly how Cane wrote it, complete with a strange black church to the east which Cane described as being the source of all evil. The briefly see Cane who sicks his dogs on angry townspeople who claim that Cane turned their children evil. Trent thinks this is all a publicity stunt and refuses to believe what is happening. Soon, even stranger events occur as people, including Styles, mutate into hideous monsters. Trent tries to escape, but is caught in an endless loop, always returning to Hobb's End. Cane finishes writing his new novel and after reading it, Styles goes insane. Cane gives his novel to Trent so he can distribute his mind-altering masterpiece to the world. What is reality and what is fiction and will Trent be able to stop Sutter Cane?
Taking the Elephant Walk to strange, new places
When movies decide to mess with reality and the audience's perception, they run the risk of being utterly confusing. In The Mouth Of Madness has enough action and scary looking monsters to hide the fact that the story is all over the place. It's essentially a story within a story within a story. Just writing that makes my head hurt. To make matters worse, the story is mostly told in flashback. The story is fairly entertaining, the parts you can follow anyway. The way the story bounces around and messes with the characters can be confusing and tiresome by the end. It's funny how the movie precedes the rabid fans of Harry Potter,Twilight, and now Fifty Shades Of Gray. It can best be described as "Lovecraftian" with it's focus on hideous creatures and man's helplessness to their whims. In The Mouth Of Madness is part of Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy" and fans of The Thing and Prince Of Darkness will appreciate how good the monsters in the film look. They are a heaving mass of twisted and distorted flesh with realistic features and movements. The movie does have it's physical as well as psychological scary moments. The ending is fairly depressing, though the inexplicable rock music over the credits might have you believe otherwise. Carpenter does the music for the rest of the film, giving scenes the proper atmosphere they deserve.
I don't think I've seen a movie with such a big difference in acting quality from the lead to the main support. Sam Neill is great and that's no surprise. He's entertaining in just about everything he does. He gives John Trent the cool confidence needed in the beginning as he is the audience's "eyes" so to speak. We are just as skeptical as he is when he visits Hobb's End. His terror and slow descent into madness is both believable and unsettling. Though he's not in the movie a whole lot, Jurgen Prochnow is quite entertaining as the god-like Sutter Cane. The scene where he appears next to Trent on a bus, telling him his favorite color is blue is very well executed. The problem lies with Julie Carmen. Plain and simple, she is just not good. She just played her part all wrong and really brought down the quality of the film. John Carpenter brings his usual style to the film, capturing some great monster scenes and a lot of emotion.
Gimme a "T"!
Overall, In The Mouth Of Madness is a fun horror movies with some hard-to-ignore flaws. The story is all over the place and may be hard for people to focus on. That's what happens when you have a movie all about twisting reality. The monster look great and their are some genuinely scary scenes, but it's not really enough to get past the meandering story. Sam Neill and Jurgen Prochnow are both very good in their roles, but Julie Carmen is just terrible. If you enjoy John Carpenter's previous work or H.P. Lovecraft, you should be able to enjoy In The Mouth Of Madness for what it is: a mind-bending monster movie.