Thursday, October 31, 2013

#1,172. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Directed By: John Carpenter

Starring: Sam Neill, Jürgen Prochnow, Julie Carmen

Tag line: "Lived Any Good Books Lately?"

Trivia: The building used as the mental institution at the beginning of the film is actually a Toronto-based water filtration plant

From the release of Assault on Precinct 13 in 1976 through to the late ‘80s, John Carpenter turned out some of the finest genre films of the last 50 years, including Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and Prince of Darkness.

Since the start of the ‘90s, however, the general perception has been that the quality of his work was more hit-and-miss. I subscribe to this theory, but only slightly. I’m a fan of 1998’s oft-criticized Vampires, though his most recent outing, 2010’s The Ward, didn’t impress me at all.

In the Mouth of Madness, Carpenter’s visually stunning 1994 film, offers a unique spin on the apocalypse, and, as far as I'm concerned, is proof positive the great director hadn't yet lost his touch.

Novels written by world renowned horror author Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow) have been having an unusual effect on their readers, causing everything from paranoia to all-out madness. Yet despite these severe side effects, Cane’s books always make money, and the author’s sudden, unexplained disappearance has left his publisher, Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston), with no new book to print.

Having already spent millions promoting Cane’s as-yet-unfinished novel, In the Mouth of Madness, Harglow and his company attempt to recoup some of their losses by filing an insurance claim, at which point John Trent (Sam Neill), an investigator for the insurance company, enters the picture.

Believing Cane’s “disappearance” is nothing more than a publicity stunt, Trent, joined by Cane’s editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), hits the open road, determined to track down the elusive author.. Their journey leads them to Hobbs End, a small town that’s not on any map, but which has served as the central location for all of Cane’s previous novels.

Trent and Styles do, indeed, find Cane in Hobbs End, but quickly realize there’s more to this quaint New England town than meets the eye.

With the exception of one surprising twist at the end, the story that makes up In the Mouth of Madness is fairly straightforward. I even figured out what was going on well before John Trent did. What makes the movie so unique, so wonderful, are its visuals, from the opening sequence set inside a mental institution to the haunting visions that Trent experiences when he attempts to read Cane’s books (including a recurring nightmare in which a cop slowly mutates into a monster). The bizarre, almost Lovecraftian look that Carpenter and his team conjured up for In the Mouth of Madness only grows in intensity the moment Trent and Styles arrive in Hobbs End, a place where absolutely nothing is as it seems.

In the Mouth of Madness was the third and final installment in what Carpenter has deemed his “Apocalyptic Trilogy”, which also included 1982’s The Thing and ‘87's Prince of Darkness. Like those movies, In the Mouth of Madness gets inside your head, and will have you nervously looking over your shoulder as its horrific visuals dance across the screen.

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