We all know that when it comes to one of the most respected Masters of Horror, John Carpenter, he rarely disappoints. Not only does the man create the most horrifying films ever imagined, he even manages to mesmerize his audience, both within and outside of the horror genre. In 1982, Carpenter directed the cult classic remake The Thing, starting what’s known as The Apocalypse Trilogy. Then in 1987, Carpenter directed Prince of Darkness, and eight years later, the trilogy concluded with a movie I can honestly say is terrifyingly explosive! In the Mouth of Madness (1995) is a film that people will either take in and love, or reject and hate with an oddly creative plot that rejuvenates the “feel good” of being scared. Take a look at these eight reasons that I think make In the Mouth of Madness a brutally creepy flick!
In the Mouth of Madness follows insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neil: Jurassic Park 1993) as he gets the task to investigate the case of a missing author – which Trent initially believes is a hoax. As Trent is plunged into the nightmarish world of Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow), the outside world crumbles around him. As Trent’s sanity wavers, both he and the audience are left to wonder – is Sutter Cane’s work actually coming to life and creating madness? The movie also stars Julie Carmen (Fright Night 2 1989), film legend Charlton Heston (The Planet of the Apes series) and David Warner (Titanic 1997) as Trent’s psychiatrist who is forced to listen to the unbelievable story of destruction and chaos.
The first and foremost factor that propelled recognition for In the Mouth of Madness was the vibrant influence of H.P. Lovecraft throughout the film. From the creatures, monsters, and overall stylistic madness, if you’re a Lovecraft fan, you will not be disappointed!
Secondly, let’s look at the Carpenter influence that radiates throughout the scenes of the movie. He carried over the old-style filmmaking he had initially made so popular with such films like Halloween (1978). The creepy camera angles and classic cinematography makes the film a Carpenter signature. For example, at the beginning of the film, there is a scene where John Trent (Neil) first arrives at the mental hospital which is insanely creepy. As Trent is secluded in his room, a demonic presence seizes noise and amplifies up into a very disturbing scene that stands up as one of his best.
There is some highly impressive acting by every cast member in this twisted tale of horror mixed with reality. Sam Neil’s performance as he slowly proceeds into insanity is nothing short of excellent, but the darkness could not be expanded if it wasn’t for Jurgen Prochnow’s grim performance as evil himself, Sutter Cane.
Another factor is, of course, the music, made possible by Carpenter himself. If the awesome guitar riffs in the introduction don’t get your blood flowing, the atmospheric macabre music in the scarier scenes will leave you entranced in the film. What I admire the most about Carpenter’s soundtracks is the uniqueness of the music. You can always tell you’re watching a Carpenter flick by the horrifically charming music that fuses the movie’s scenes together flawlessly.
One of my favorite factors is how the film wonderfully concludes The Apocalypse Trilogy. I have gotten a lot of hate by claiming In the Mouth of Madness is the best of the trilogy, and I still hold my ground. The Thing is certainly a standalone film, as is In the Mouth of Madness, and I feel that Prince of Darkness was the weakest of the bunch. The film alludes to the depiction of an actual coming of the end of times, making for a perfect conclusion.
One of the most important factors is the mind-bending plot that makes this movie amazing. As Sutter Cane is perceived as a Stephen King-type in the real world, the fact that his readers actually go mad from reading his literature is a spine-chilling idea. As Trent dives further into the madness, it is hard to tell the difference between the books and reality. Nothing is what it seems, and that kind of cinema makes the viewers a part of the action!
Practical effects, were of course, big in the ’80s, but as the ’90s began, CGI started being introduced more and more. In the Mouth of Madness uses practical effects to make the film gritty and retro. The odd creatures and monsters are as realistic as ever, brought forth breathtakingly from the pages of many a Lovecraft novel.
The final factor is the sheer eeriness that broadcasts from every scene – from a woman crawling upside down to an old lady chaining her naked husband to her ankle… there are no boundaries. As we delve into the unbelievable, Carpenter gives us free passes to insanity!
In the Mouth of Madness is a film that must be watched at least once. It is groundbreaking in terms of the macabre and bizarre, giving viewers a Carpenter story that stands on its own with a unique sensation not to be taken lightly. So buckle in, and get a taste of madness tonight!