In The Mouth of Madness – Retro Review

In The Mouth of Madness (1994) is a somewhat forgotten John Carpenter (The Thing 1982) movie save for a few memes circulating the internet today. Why is that? It doesn’t get much play time on television and good luck finding it on Netflix. It is a shame, too, because this movie happens to be very good. The CGI is outstanding by 1994 standards, the acting was top notch and it was legitimately scary. Of course, most movies with Sam Neil (Event Horizon 1997) and David Warner (Tron 1982) are going to be good.

In this caper, society seems to be crumbling with mass hysteria upon the release of horror writer Sutter Cane’s (Jurgen Prochnow: Shaun of the Dead 2004) latest novel, The Hobb’s End Horror, which contains an advertisement for the upcoming novel In The Mouth of Madness. Where have we heard that name before? The movie is actually told in a flashback through the mind of John Trent (Neil) as he is confined to the Happy Home presided over by Saperstein (John Glover: Payback 1999) and Dr Wrenn (Warner).

Trent was working as a freelance insurance fraud agent for Mr. Robinson (Bernie Casey: Revenge of The Nerds 1984) who made you pay very dearly if you committed fraud. Mr. Robinson informs Trent over coffee that Sutter Cane has gone missing. Trent has barely heard of Cane when some weirdo with an ax (Conrad Bergschneider: Serendipity 2001) smashes through the coffee shop window, asks if Trent likes Cane’s work then goes to kill him….before he’s shot to death by alert police officers.

Trent then visits the publisher of Cane’s works, Mr. Harglow (Charlton Heston: Planet of the Apes 1968) and his top editor, Linda Styles (Julie Carmen: Gargantua 1998). Harglow reveals that Cane went into hiding and only sent his published works through his agent with no return address. The lunatic with the ax happened to be the agent which means Cane needs to do a better job screening these people. Trent is asked to find Cane by Linda and she tells him to read his works. Trent begins reading the books and has hallucinations, which convinces him that not everything is on the level. Now John has to travel to Hobb’s End with Linda to find Cane and the madness behind him.

In the Mouth of Madness is a slow burn but the payoff is fantastic. You feel every bit of emotion that Sam Neil shows throughout the movie. He begins as a confident non-believer and slowly turns into a believer as he starts losing his mind. The best line is when Trent is in a church pew telling Sutter Cane that his books suck. What follows is a reality-bender that sets the tone for future reality benders such as Soul Survivors (2001) and Hellraiser: Inferno (2000). Director John Carpenter knows how to scare the living daylights out of people and In the Mouth of Madness is no exception. He uses top notch jump scares, makeup and special effects to make the monsters featured look fantastic.

As with most John Carpenter movies, the opening theme is fantastic, just like in The Thing, Halloween, They Live, Vampires and Escape From New York. Take a listen to it here:

The acting was top notch all around: Jurgen Prochnow as the creepy Sutter Cane, Julie Carmen as the editor and damsel in distress Linda Styles, Sam Neil as John Trent and right down the line. By the end of the movie, you will sit there and just say, “Wow!” In the Mouth of Madness is an amazing feature that you should see if you like creepy crawlies, deformed monsters, great makeup and an actually scary story. After all, what would happen if grizzly horror novels came to life? Not a pleasant sight for most folks. Still, grab a bowl of popcorn, kick back and enjoy the show. You won’t regret it.

About Kevin H's number one heel. Favorite horror movies: Insidious, Friday the 13th Part 6, Trick Or Treat (Gene Simmons version), the original King Kong, the Alien/Aliens franchise, Nightmare on Elm Street 3, I've been a writer since middle school and have been so controversial I was suspended in middle school, nearly got suspended in high school and kicked off two websites for bad language or different opinions. I can write reviews, fan fics, real fics, romance, sports writing, critiques and anything I'm challenged to do.

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