John Carpenter’s third and final film in his trilogy of horror (The other two being The Thing and The Prince of Darkness) is a mind-bending, witty, and frightening story and one of Carpenter’s best. It’s not often that a horror film has it all: Laughs, real scares, and the ability to make you go hmmmm. Based heavily on the works H.P. Lovecraft, the film pays homage to the “Old Ones”, the Cthulu mythos, Lovecraftian artwork, and delivers a host of other little nods to the famous writer. Combined with Sam Neil’s astounding performance (nobody goes crazy better) and a taught and truly disturbing script that never takes itself too seriously (even manages to poke fun at itself) makes this one of the most interesting and thought provoking films in all of horror.
It’s the kind of film that the less you know the better going into your first viewing. But I have found after several viewings that the entertainment (and creepiness) factor remains the same. If anything, the more views the more you are able to appreciate the story and the intricacies that come with it.
Sam Neil is an insurance fraud investigator and a damn good one at that. Sent to investigate a publishing firm’s (ran by Charlton Heston) claim about missing horror author, Sutter Cane. Cane is essentially Stephen King, but bigger, like having sold a billion books bigger. Cane’s work has become increasingly erratic and his is way overdue on his latest novel. Neil along with Cane’s editor (the hottie Vampire from Fright Night Part 2) head out to locate the mysterious writer. They end up in the quaint little New Hampshire town of Hobb’s End. A fictional place. No, not like a fictional city in a movie, but an actual fictional city from one of Cane’s novels. And then there is that little thing about reading Cane’s novels that makes people become violent.
What unfolds over the course of 90 minutes is true madness. At times it seems like a never ending supply of random creepy imagery and monsters (provided by the folks at KNB), but it soon becomes clear that the disjointedness of the film is mostly intentional and plays on more than one level. And that is precisely what makes this film such a joy to watch, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth. Your narrator is wildly unreliable. Is Sam Neil crazy? Well, yes we all know that. What can one believe? Is the whole story just another story within a story, told in a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma? No one can ever be quite sure, not even Winston Churchill.
Viewing this film is an experience one will not soon forget. It sticks with you and is known to cause nightmares (at least for this writer) . In other words, In The Mouth of Madness is one of the most creeptastic damn flicks around.
Sore Factor: Z