As I’ve been hurting for topics to discuss lately, I’ve decided to add a new feature. Here, I’ll be highlighting obscure and/or underappreciated works in the horror genre across various media.
One of my favorite films seems a good place to start–especially as too few people have ever seen it.
In the Mouth of Madness is the third movie in John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (after The Thing and Prince of Darkness, the latter of which might warrant a post in its own right). Sam Neil plays John Trent, an insurance investigator tasked with hunting down famed horror author Sutter Cane and his final manuscript. Paired with the book’s editor by his publisher client, Trent pieces together a map from the cover art of Cane’s novels, leading to a town that should only exist in fiction.
What ensues is perhaps the purest love letter to Lovecraft ever shot by a big-name genre director. The line between reality and fantasy constantly blurs once Trent enters the supposedly fictional town of Hobb’s End, slowly picking apart his sanity until he’s faced with a terrible truth he seems predestined to spread.
There’s a lot to like in this movie. It starts with a rocking opening theme (as all good Carpenter films do–alas, the score is not as strong as his usual work). The story is genuinely engrossing, culminating with a dark mindfuck of an ending, but still manages some excellent black humor along the way. Sam Neil and Jurgen Prochnow are clearly having a good time playing Trent and Cane. Julie Carmen is wooden by comparison as Cane’s editor, and her performance drags down some of the scenes. However, it’s difficult to say if that might be somewhat intentional given the plot.
While In the Mouth of Madness may not be able to match the sheer atmosphere and tension of a masterpiece like The Thing, it’s a damn fine horror movie in its own right and well worth a watch for any genre fan.