Review: In The Mouth of Madness (1995)

D: John Carpenter
S: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jurgen Prochnow

In The Mouth of Madness is the third in John Carpenter's self-proclaimed "Apocalypse Trilogy", though as with the prior two films, it's not really connected to the others in any way other than in general themes.  Perceptions of reality, the definition of madness, the blurry line between fact and fiction.  All of these and more are worked into a wonderful pastiche that blends the styles of Carpenter and H.P. Lovecraft.

The movie tells the story of John Trent, a investigator working known for his ability to press hard on those filing false insurance claims.  He's retained by a publisher when they're number one moneymaker, Sutter Cane, disappears prior to the release of his latest book.  Trent is matched up with a representative of the publishing house as they begin their search for Cane (an obvious take-off of Stephen King, both in the descriptions of his works as well as the locations, fictional towns in the Northeast).  The search eventually brings them to the formerly-fictional town of Hobb's End, where Cane has holed up and acts as a god.  Cane hints that he works for the Old Ones, who drove him to write his books, the point of which is to drive the readers mad - and which we discover is a goal that's being met quite handily back in the "real world".

The movie builds quite well, and as a big fan of both Carpenter and Lovecraft, there's a certain glee in watching events unfold.  Given that this is a Carpenter work, you can't be sure the end will be a happy one (hint: it's not), but watching him weave the Lovecraft mythos into his works is like watching a marshmallow roast over a fire - they're both guilty pleasures.  The acting, unfortunately, is hit-and-miss...and the actual dialog is only decent.  It is very nice seeing Sam Neill chew up the work he's given here, and he quite obviously enjoys himself immensely (the only role I've seen him tackle with more relish is that of Dr. Weir in Event Horizon).  Overall, the movie is great fun, particularly if you're a fan of Cthulhu and Carpenter.