Halloween Review – In The Mouth Of Madness

So, this Halloween, the first of our movie reviews is a John Carpenter homage to the work of H.P. Lovecraft titled In The Mouth of Madness. See, I can do reviews of movies which aren’t Anime.

Cast and Crew Information

Sam Neill as John Trent
Julie Carmen as Linda Styles
Jürgen Prochnow as Sutter Cane
David Warner as Dr. Wrenn
Charlton Heston as Jackson Harglow
John Glover as Saperstein

Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Michael De Luca

Available on DVD


Insurance investigator John Trent is hired by publishing mogul Jackson Harglow to find hit horror writer Sutter Cane, who has gone missing while working on his latest book, In The Mouth Of Madness, and while increasingly, readers of his books are starting to become violently psychotic. His search will lead to the sleepy little town of Hobb’s End, which is featured in Cane’s novels… and which everyone thought was fictitious…

High Point

“Did I ever tell you my favorite color is blue?”

Low Point

This is more than a bit of a spoiler. From the way the movie adaptation of the book In The Mouth Of Madness is depicted in the film – the script would have to be the cinematic equivalent of The King In Yellow, except performing starts turning viewers into strange creatures, instead of summoning Hastur outright. The King In Yellow, as a play, works as a device (and a menace – if it’s performed, or a performance is attempted), because it doesn’t take a lot of people to perform a play, thus it’s slightly more likely to get through the play without everyone going mad. On the other hand, there are so many people involved with a movie that the likelihood of somebody going bonkers, killing a bunch of people and stopping production is much more difficult. Yes, I know this is hand-waved by the explanation that Sutter Cane is now “God”, but Lovecraft (whose works this film is a tribute to), never had to resort to that.

Content Advisory (Violence, Nudity, Profanity)

Basically no nudity in this movie, and not a lot of gore, but there is a moderate amount of blood, some incredibly disturbing imagery, and a lot of profanity.

The Scores

Originality: The book is an homage to Lovecraft’s work, without being an outright adaptation – and probably comes off as better than most adaptations (more or less). 5 out of 6.

Effects: The effects are very good, particularly the creature effects and the matte paintings. The set designs within the actual “mouth of madness” are particularly spectacular. 5 out of 6.

Story: The story is and excellent homage to Lovecraft’s work without having to be an actual adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s stories, though it does run into a few hangups towards the end (see the Low Point). 4 out of 6

Acting: The acting is pretty good, with a lot of good actors in the movie doing a lot of good work. I really can’t think of anything “off” about the performances. 5 out of 6.

Production: The movie’s score is very good. The film is very nicely shot and edited. The production’s shining moment though is the scene right after my High Point. I’m not going to spoil it, but what I will say is that no filters are involved. 5 out of 6.

Emotional Response: The horror in Lovecraft’s books was, often, based around recognizing just how small we are in the universe, and the possibility that other races or beings might be stronger, more powerful than us, and not only not share our ethics, but think so alien to us or look so different that the realizations would break our minds. Horror of that type doesn’t work so well in the late 20th, early 21st century. We’ve learned how big the universe is, and how small we are within it – and our minds haven’t been rent asunder at the realization. So, with this movie, the “horror” of the film is taken in a different direction (which I don’t want to spoiler further), which works much better, and I have to say that after I finished the movie, I had some difficulty going to sleep that evening until I finished working my mind through the movie. 6 out of 6.

Overall: This movie is just as good as The Thing. This is one of John Carpenter’s best movies and if you consider yourself a fan of horror films, or of John Carpenter, I reccomend watching this movie. 6 out of 6.

In total, In The Mouth Of Madness gets a 36 out of 42.

Halloween Countdown 2009

October 3: The Last House on the Left (1972), The Last House on the Left (2009)
October 10: Zombieland
October 17: Creep
October 24: The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula
October 31: Into the Mouth of Madness, Paranormal Activity

2 replies on “Halloween Review – In The Mouth Of Madness”

  1. One reason I liked this so much was because it became almost meta-horror – horror about the possibility of their being horror. I loved it whereas my wife was disturbed by the story.

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