Released just a few months after Wes Craven's New Nightmare, John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness mines a similar vein of meta horror. Carpenter's movie is less successful than Craven's attempt but is still an interesting and enjoyable film.
John Trent (Sam Neill) is an insurance investigator, hired to find the missing horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow), think along the lines of H.P. Lovecraft meets Stephen King but even more successful. Trent is convinced Cane's disappearance is a publicity stunt by his publishing company to promote his latest book and is partnered with Cane's editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) to track him down. Trent soon finds he is way off the mark, as the impact of Cane's imagination begins to influence his readers and the real world in violent and terrifying ways.
Made in 1994, In the Mouth of Madness looks and feels like a 1980's John Carpenter movie, and is without doubt his best post 80's film. The central premise of the film is an excellent concept and it's unfortunate that the film doesn't get the best out of it. While the movie has a few stand out ideas, some good practical effects and a solid central performance from Sam Neill, Carpenter and writer Michael DeLuca can't quite manage to hide the feeling they came up with a great idea but didn't quite know what to do with it. Carpenter would go on to use a similar idea for his Masters of Horror TV episode Cigarette Burns, replacing the written word with film. Once again the full potential of a great idea was unrealised with this project, although the episode, like this film does have merit.
|Clearly this man is insane|
My main gripe with the film is where Craven's New Nightmare fully supported the horror genre by using it as a positive thing, Carpenter's film could be interpreted by an audience who don't know Carpenter's movies and love for horror as an attack on both the genre and it's fans. Let me make it clear, this is not how I interpret the film, I just think it leaves itself open to that option. Overall an entertaining and solid horror piece which still managed to leave me feeling slightly disappointed as it had ideas that could have made for a classic, however it's still definitely worth seeing.