In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

In the Mouth of Madness (1994) – For an author who was never reached a very wide audience in his lifetime, H.P. Lovecraft has had a pretty heavy influence for modern horror storytelling. I think (and I’m hardly alone in this opinion) that it’s because he emphasized the horror of the unknowable. You don’t really get answers from his stories and those that seek them usually end up going bugfuck insane. John Carpenter, perhaps in a more limited way, understands the horror of the unknown. After all, in Carpenter’s films you never really found out why Michael Myers liked to kill people. The non-Carpenter sequels tried to explain it and they sucked.

In the Mouth of Madness is John Carpenter’s homage to H.P. Lovecraft. Sam Neill plays John Trent, an insurance investigator hired to look into the disappearance of a modern Lovecraft-style author named Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow). Cane’s novels have been driving people ax crazy and, more importantly to his publisher (Charlton Heston), selling billions of copies. His new book, In the Mouth of Madness, is expected to outsell them all. Also, it may bring about the End of Days. The film does its best when the horror remains incomprehensible, but at least one scene actually tries to replicate the Unspeakable Horrors behind everything and they look… well, they look like fake movie monsters. Not seeing is believing for something like this. Another flaw of the film is Julie Carmen, the female lead. None of her behavior in the film is convincing. She’s not a convincing person to begin with and her descent into madness didn’t seem any better to me.

I personally believe that everything you can think of is true on some level because people believe in it, so the premise of a horror author willing his creations into existence hits an unsettling chord with me. Or did they already exist and will themselves into his creations? The movie is unclear and that lack of clarity is what gives it its resonance. The all-too-thin fabric of reality comes crashing down and that’s when shit really hits the fan. How do you escape from that? You don’t and that’s why this type of horror tends to make me uneasy. I’m not really saying that In the Mouth of Madness will shake your confidence in the veracity of the world we live in. It’s good, but it’s not that good. It probably won’t even haunt you like the better horror movies. But it sucks you in and, given the subject matter, that’s enough.

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