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THE MOUTH OF MADNESS - 1995
New Line Cinema
Rated: Germany: 16 / Norway: 18 / Portugal: M/16 / Singapore: PG
/ Spain:18 / UK: 15 / USA: R
"I'm not insane!"
strait-jacketed John Trent (Sam
Neill: THE OMEN III, ENIGMA, DEAD CALM, JURASSIC PARK, EVENT
HORIZON, JURASSIC PARK III)
from a padded cell, moments after kicking an asylum orderly in the groin.
Suddenly, Trent's fellow inmates echo his claim on sanity, demanding
release until Saperstein (John Glover: 52 PICKUP, GREMLINS 2, BRIMSTONE [TV]) drowns them out with an instrumental version of The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun."
director John Carpenter's (HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE THING , BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, GHOSTS OF MARS)
finest hour as a filmmaker, IN
THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. Based on the Cthulhu mythos of legendary
horror scribe H.P. Lovecraft (whose story "At
the Mountains of Madness," the film derives its title from),
the screenplay by Michael De Luca (JUDGE DREDD, FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE)
is a clever mix of mystery, horror, and pop culture commentary.
crucifixes of black crayon, Trent tells his story to government official
Dr. Wrenn (David Warner: THE OMEN, WAXWORK, CAST
A DEADLY SPELL). A freelance insurance investigator, Trent
is hired by Robinson (Bernie Casey: ...tick...tick...tick,
GARGOYLES [TV], DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE, UNDER SIEGE) to locate
bestselling horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jurgen
Prochnow: THE KEEP, BLITZ, DNA), who has disappeared without delivering
his latest manuscript, "In the Mouth of Madness," to his publishing
company, Arcane (named for Lovecraft publisher Arkham
House). His readership has taken to the streets in protest, causing
riots across the country, demanding Cane's newest book.
Smelling a publicity stunt, Trent nevertheless meets with publisher Jackson Harglow
(Charlton Heston: PLANET
OF THE APES, THE OMEGA MAN, SOYLENT GREEN, PLANET
OF THE APES ), and Cane's editor Linda Styles (Julie
Carmen: NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER, PAINT IT BLACK, FRIGHT NIGHT II),
for information on the author's possible whereabouts. To help him
understand his quarry - and the phenomenon behind his success - Trent
starts to read Cane's novels. Despite run-of-the-mill titles like "The
Feeding" and "The Hobb's End Horror," he finds himself
immersed in the stories, which start causing him nightmares.
that Hobb's End does in fact exist (in an inventive
scene I'd prefer not to give away), Trent and Styles travel to
the town in New Hampshire, and register at the Pickman Hotel (named
for Lovecraft's story "Pickman's Model"). Although
the small town resembles a Norman Rockwell scene, the absence of people
- and the presence of a gothic church overlooking the town - increases
Trent's suspicions that the town has been created as a horror funhouse
for Cane's fans. Styles denies this, insisting that she and Trent
are actually living out Cane's latest manuscript, which states that
Hobb's End is the gateway for the "old ones" to return
In a series
of vignettes, Trent can no longer discern between reality and fantasy.
Violent outbreaks occur among the townsfolk, people mutate into multi-limbed,
tentacled creatures, and the elusive author has taken up residence within
the church to finish his final novel - which will finish humanity as we
know it. Cane's horrors are driving his readers insane because they
believe in it, and the more who believe in it, the wider the gateway opens.
For Cane's readers, his work is reality. For anyone who's ever been to a SF,
fantasy, or horror convention, there are fans who get caught up in the
worlds they're either reading about, viewing on both the big screen
and small, or enacting in role playing games to the point where they relate
their own lives to the fantasies.
fan is derived from fanatic. In the film, Cane tells Trent that his books
have been translated into several languages and that more people believe
in his works than in the Bible. This parallels John Lennon's historical
statement, at the height of the Beatles' popularity in the 60s, that
they were bigger than Jesus.
pop culture cease being entertainment and become reality? We're a
media and celebrity obsessed society (intelligently
depicted in such films as To Die For, Hero, and 15 MINUTES), preferring
to spend our time in Internet chat rooms, creating websites that honor
the creativity of others, and standing for hours in line to get the autograph
of a complete stranger, rather than be in the company of our own family
THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, like Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, is a
ground-breaking horror film, and in my opinion, one of the best horror
films of the 90s. It's a film that takes risks, refusing to provide an
explanation of the terrors witnessed by its audience. It evokes fear of
the unknown - not vampires, or serial slashers who are eventually stopped
by a wooden stake or a bullet. There are monstrous creatures running around,
but are they real or just a figment of Trent's imagination?
With a furious
editing style by Edward A. Warschilka (THE
RUNNING MAN, CHILD'S PLAY,
CHILD'S PLAY 3), and great creature special effects (that
are reminiscent of Carpenter's THE
THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is essential viewing for any fan of horror literature
in general (Lovecraft's writing in particular),
and audiences willing to let their imaginations take over once the film
any great film, you'll find something new every time you watch IN
THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. I give this film five shriek girls.
copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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