In the Mouth of Madness
Dir: John Carpenter
Star: Sam Neill, Charlton Heston, Jürgen Prochnow, Julie Carmen
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1995
Format: DVD R1

Horror Novelist Cutter Slade (Jürgen Prochnow) is the biggest selling author in the world, and he is about to release his new book. A book so disturbing it sends you mad. The only problem is he has gone missing. Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) Slade's publisher hires private eye John Trent (Sam Neill) to go and find him. He tracks him down to the small town of Hobbs End; a place thought to only exist is Cutter Slade's books. Is everything that Slade writes the truth? What is the secret of his new book and why does anyone who reads it go mad? The truth may be more than John Trent's sanity can take. Just think if the whole world goes mad who's to say that you are the one that is sane.

John Carpenter the wilderness years. The nineteen nineties weren't good to him, short of a box office hit and slammed by critics, the films he produced in this period are largely overlooked as not his best work. This means that this little heard of film is rarely seen and certainly hasn't been given the respect it's due. Basically In the Mouth of Madness is an inventive and effective horror movie. It may not match The Thing for frights but it is certainly pretty disturbing non-the less.

The main reason the film works so well is the scary Michael de Luca script. It is really original and effective in unsettling the audience. Things start normally but slowly the horror writing becomes reality and sanity takes a back seat. This concept is well handled and is pretty scary. Add to this the exploration of what is sanity and you soon find the script is full of clever ideas and thought provoking questions.

John Carpenter handles all of this with his usual style and panache. The problem is that the budget never truly allows him to realise his vision fully. The make up effects are lousy and the ending is not quite as apocalyptic as it should have been (embarrassingly one scene seems to have had the effects removed to save money). In fact this is a film of two halves. The first part when the characters are exploring Hobb's End is very creepy. However once the gross out effects begin, and the budget falters, the film loses it way slightly. Hold on though as then ending is very good (all be it not as good as it could have been).

I have been critical in the past of Sam Neill, he tends to be an acting equivalent of a house brick (unexciting, functional, and only worth looking at what he is part of, not being noticeable on his own). However somehow Carpenter has managed to get him to act, and as a big surprise he is rather good at it. This is a good thing as Julie Carmen is darn awful. She literally has no screen presence and is instantly forgettable. The role needed a transformation from prudish bookworm yearned for excitement, to femme fatal zombie unfortunately this is completely lost. Thank goodness for the strong supporting cast, with great turns from Charlton Heston, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner, and Wilhelm von Homburg.

In the Mouth of Madness is an effective horror film. It benefits from a great story, original ideas, and a good performance from the lead character. Where it falls on its face is in the budget used to bring these ideas to the screen. The opening half of the film is superbly creepy, however this doesn't last as poor monster effects take over. Hold on though, as the ending is a good one. It is unfair to write off this film because of the director's popularity at the time, and it is about time it was given another chance. While it is not one of the classics of his earlier work, it is well worth watching if you are a horror fan as it is miles ahead of most modern films of this genre.

Rating: 3 out of 5


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Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Supperb picture worthy of a modern release
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Hey this is surprising effective.
Features Audio Commentary by John Carpenter and the most boring man on the planet Gary B. Kibbe. Don't listen to this unless you have a big interest in lighting.
Verdict Great transfer with limited extras. The commentary track is bad, really bad. So on the whole things could have been better.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home