Halloween Horror Review: In The Mouth Of Madness
When celebrated insurance investigator John Trent is hired to find missing superstar horror author Sutter Cane by his publishing company, little does he know that this seemingly mundane investigation would propel him into… The Mouth Of Madness!
Cast: Sam Neill, Jurgen Prochnow, David Warner, Julie Carmen, Charlton Heston. Written by: Michael De Luca. Directed by: John Carpenter.
Reality is a strange beast, one persons perception of it can be wholly different from another’s, reality is ultimately based on conjecture, of the state of things as they are, or appear to be, it is the culmination of all your experiences that fundamentally determines how things appear to you. John Carpenter’s 1994 classic In The Mouth Of Madness takes reality and breaks it, reassembles it, and then smashes it into sub atomic particles, stamps on them, and then sets them on fire… reality takes a real hammering in this mind warping psychological horror from the maestro of the macabre.
When we first meet our movies protagonist John Trent (Sam Neill) he is garbed in a strait-jacket and being unceremoniously dumped into an isolation cell in a psychiatric hospital. From this inauspicious beginning, we are transported back to discover how this seemingly intelligent and grounded professional ends up in a padded cell, on the wrong end of materiality.
Trailblazing master of horror, John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) expertly channels HP Lovecraft, especially his novella Mountains Of Madness, for this stylish and perplexing horror thriller. Carpenter is one of the pioneers of the horror genre thanks to his ground-breaking horror masterpiece Halloween, and is the perfect choice to bring the Lovecraftian inspired original script by Michael De Luca to life, and has informally described the film as the last part of his Apocalypse Trilogy preceded by The Thing and Prince Of Darkness.
Carpenter’s movie reflects superbly the meta-fiction style of storytelling, meta-fiction is a device used in literature and film to describe a break in the proverbial fourth wall, a story within a story or where the characters of the fictional account realise they are just that… characters. Carpenter plays with this genre device beautifully and serves the viewer an almost flawless meta-physical and mind-bending thriller with so many twists and turns that even after a second viewing you will still want to re-visit it to discover the many allusions and clues expertly hidden throughout the film.
Remarkably well acted by the eclectic and talented cast, with Sam Neill (as is quite often the case) the most outstanding as the initially over-confident, yet increasingly bewildered principal player. Jurgen Prochnow plays missing horror author Sutter Cane, Trent’s personal holy grail, and gives a wonderful performance as an amalgam of infinite calm and dark mania. They are both backed up by a sensational secondary cast that includes English thespian David Warner as Trent’s psychiatrist, Julie Carmen as Linda Styles, Cane’s agent and Trent’s initial guide, plus Charlton Heston as the owner of Cane’s publishing company.
Though psychological horror plays a large part in the film, it still gives up the goods as far as straight up gore is concerned, plus there are some excellent creature effects, with a notably Lovecraftian look and feel. The film’s score is, as ever, by Carpenter himself and is fantastic, orchestrating with the onscreen visuals perfectly.
If you like your horror deep, strange and intriguing, with a side of the macabre, then In The Mouth Of Madness is for you. Carpenter weaves a dreamlike world, that is in essence an almost perfect blend of HP Lovecraft and Stephen King. It is in equal measure innovative and haunting, and is one of the most inventive and twisted movies that Carpenter has ever wrought upon the viewer. Infinitely re-watchable, thanks to cleverly hidden clues and imagery, with outstanding acting turns from the talented cast, especially lead actor Sam Neill. Are You Prepared To Delve Into The Mouth Of Madness?