Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

Directed by: John Carpenter

Starring: Sam Neil Julie Carmen Jurgen Prochnow

Synopsis: An insurance investigator begins discovering that the impact a horror writer's books have on his fans is more than inspirational.

My thoughts: In the Mouth of Madness is the third movie in John Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy and the third movie we saw in our semi-regular movie nights (coincidently, The Thing was the first we saw). It has Sam Neill, it has John Carpenter, it has awesome practical special effects - but it lacked something.
The plot follows Sam Neill character, a professional bullshit-spotter (insurance investigator) who is hired by a publisher to track-down their most successful horror author, Sutter Cane, who has gone AWOL. By using clues hidden in Cane's earlier books, Sam Neill discovers the location of a town named Hobb's End. After arriving in town, he discovers that Hobb's End has probably been written into existence by Cane (who looks strangely like Neil Gaiman), and bad, nightmarish stuff starts to happen.

While everything was solid, it felt like I'd seen everything before. The sceptical protagonist, fiction turning into reality, malevolent creatures from another dimension that send you mad when you look upon them - these are conventions I've seen often enough that, while it could keep me watching, it never moved me to the edge of my seat. It could be that so many authors and film makers have borrowed ideas from this movie that they now seems ubiquitous (the game Alan Wake, for example, owes a huge debt to this film), but there was nothing really in the film that I haven't seen done better somewhere else.

That said, there is a lot in this movie and I don't think there are many other directors who could have take this on and kept it coherent. The story twists and turns, but Carpenter keeps the audience on top of it all - no small feat. As I said before, this film has some great effects including but not limited to: creepy-back-of-head face (like in Harry Potter, but cooler), twisted spider-walking people (like The Exorcist, but not as cool), and lashing tentacle granny (like in The Thing, equally as cool [note from Kayleigh: Tentacle Granny is really fucking cool.]). Another thing the film had going for it was casting Sam Neill in the lead. Consciously putting my affection for Mr Neill aside, he delivered a terrific and believable performance. And I mean that objectively. Well, as objectively as someone who once ordered a portrait of him online can be. Performance by supporting cast was also strong across the board. No complaints in that area at all.

The final act was a bit problematic for me. Get ready for some spoilers....

It turns out Cane is a puppet for creatures from another dimension that want to come here and do terrible things to us. This final turn screams Lovecraft, but without a purpose. There was so much in this film already in terms of psychological horror, supernatural horror and in a way, body horror - it was just too many things by the end of the film. Furthermore, creatures from beyond the realm of the conceivable, the very sight of whom drive the behold mad, work a lot better when you don't get a good look at them
.
Overall its a good effort and very worthwhile for John Carpenter completionists, but it lacks anything truly unique or that will one day make it a classic.

3 out of 5 Sutter Cane sequels

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