The Screening Room Reviews: In the Mouth of Madness

It’s another fine Summer evening as the Screening Room crew gathers at KFHS. Mad Mike is speaking with an older gentleman in a long coat smoking a cigarette outside, it appears to be a very heated discussion. He’s removed his radar dish, but the “I Want to Believe” poster remains. DJ TV appears to have performed some bizarre ritual and the skull he previously brought in has been animated. It is spouting nonsense that sounds like lines from “King Lear.” Having failed to electrocute Foxx Jackson, Headset #4 has sought the assistance of Headset #1. They are plotting suspiciously in a corner. As 6:30 draws near, the crew takes their places, considers the truth of reality, and dives into John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth the Mouth of Madness.”

“In the Mouth of Madness” is the story of John Trent (Sam Neill), a skilled insurance investigator who is tasked with locating missing author Sutter Cane. Cane is sensation in the horror genre, claiming that more people read his bizarre books than the Bible. As Trent digs deeper into the case, aided by Cane’s editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) things become stranger and stranger. Both Trent and Styles begin to question reality and what exactly defines our perception of what is real. “In the Mouth of Madness” is a tale of, you guessed it, madness and the powerlessness of humanity against higher powers.

Mouth of Madness is actually the third film in Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy.  Unlike traditional trilogies however, the films in the Apocalypse Trilogy are only related through themes. “It’s really pretty deep” says Foxx Jackson “you’ve got The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and In the Mouth of Madness. The destruction of self, the destruction of God, and the destruction of reality, respectively. A complete and utter break down of humanity.” While Jackson offers high praise to the series, only “The Thing” has garnered critical acclaim. The latter two films have both received increasingly mixed reviews. “This is probably the closest we will ever get to a Lovecraft movie” offers Mad Mike “and I love that.” “I think it’s tough because the whole concept of Lovecraft is “”Oh, it’s so indescribably horrible, I can’t even begin to describe it because it’s so horrible”” it’s tricky to show that in movie.” says an insightful DJ TV. Mouth of Madness may be a tricky film for some viewers who aren’t acquainted with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, which may be one reason for it’s mixed ratings.

“I really dig the kind of eerie feeling this movie has about it” says Mad Mike. There’s a lot left to the imagination as far as plot goes. Why is the world ending? What is reality? However, the aesthetic really lends itself to these feelings. Carpenter attempts to show us people that are experiencing unimaginable horror to insane to be viewed, without ever really showing us what they are seeing. Not everyone thinks Carpenter pulled it off however. “The world feels empty” says Foxx “The town of Hobb’s End feels utterly deserted, most the locations in the film feel empty of both people and props.” “It was Carpenter’s most ambitious film in the trilogy” counters DJ TV “The first two films are very contained, this one spanned over numerous locations and tackled a much larger concept, the end of the world.” Regardless of whether or not the film captured the chilling feeling of the story, Carpenter has a unique style and is a master of film. His hardcore 80’s look has become a staple of classic horror films.

Sam Neill is a delight as usual, bringing an air of dry humour to his skeptical character and the film in general. Julie Carmen delivers a particularly haunting performance as Neill’s shoehorned love interest, Linda Styles. Carmen’s more serious, somewhat philosophical character is contrasted by Neil’s cynical, narrow-minded character. This striking duo interacts incredibly well and only further strengthens the air of madness in the movie. Jürgen Prochnow is fantastic as horror author Sutter Cane. Cane is mix of authors H.P. Lovecraft (on who’s work the film is based) and Stephen King (a personal friend of Carpenter). Prochnow creates a Cane who is smug and clearly above the whole situation. Some of the extras may be a bit lacking, but what can we expect from a lower-budget 80’s horror film? The acting overall is superb and the vast majority of the cast deliver a stellar performance.

As always, The Screening Room rates on a scale of:

Buy It

Watch It


Burn It

“This is the closest we’ll get to a Lovecraft movie, it’s my favorite Carpenter film” says Mad Mike “The atmosphere is awesome, the story is pretty good, the character development is deep, and the set is creepy. I’d have to give it a Buy It, especially if  you’re a Carpenter buff and can snag it in a collection. I love it.”

“I love the Lovecraftian nature of the film, the horror we can’t begin to comprehend. My mind is blown, just thinking about the final moments of the movie. Sam Neill is awesome, I love him. My only complaint is that set seems a tad underwhelming. Despite that, I’d have to give it a Buy It. I think it warrants multiple viewings.”

“It’s pretty awesome, I love Lovecraft’s ideas. It’s great to have a film rather than have to dig through all of his writings. I don’t think the score is as iconic as some of his other ones and the intro/credits track doesn’t really fit, not that the music isn’t great. Sam Neill is great and the story is well though out and one of his most ambitious. There’s a lot of layers you could find here. Definitely a Buy It.”

“In the Mouth of Madness” is Screening Room certified as Buy It. If you love Lovecraft and 80’s horror, this is the film for you.



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