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In the Mouth of Madness, WTF?

Updated on January 3, 2014
In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
Sam Neill as John Trent (gone mad)
Sam Neill as John Trent (gone mad)

John Carpenter’s 1995 film, In the Mouth of Madness, has gained a cult following of sorts, as I found the title on many ‘must see horror movies’ lists. The Lovecraftian film focuses on the recounted story of an insurance investigator, John Trent (Sam Neill), sent out to locate horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow). His novels, having gained a strong cult following, induce violent episodes and, since his disappearance, mass hysteria. As Trent discovers Cane’s horror novels may actually be invading reality, lines between sanity and psychotic begin to blur. The film, riddled with self-referential winks and genuine scares, is a mind-trip that achieves satirical commentary.

1. “Something ain’t right...” When the film first opens up we are introduced to our leading man, John Trent, as he is put away into a psychiatric ward. Already the alarm bells are ringing, as out supposed hero screams out "I'm not crazy" in harmony with the many other patients in a padded cell.Aside from the obvious and ominous signs, something is amiss in most scenes giving off the sense of an impending doom that the characters may or may not be aware of. In the Mouth of Madness follows one unnerving moment with another, leaving you in horrified anticipation for the unfortunate inevitable.However, some moments are more misleading than others, giving you a false sense of security till the horrified anticipation comes to a boil.

2. Trip-tastic. Sutter Cane is established as an infamous author with a cult-like following who writes books that cause disorientation, memory loss, and paranoia. Carpenter is all too successful in making the audience experience a similar sensation of delirium via Trent and Cane's editor Linda (Julie Carmen). As each character descends further into madness, taking audiences with them, their desire to return to reality becomes a shared want. However, what was one reality may soon become what was once perceived as madness and this is when story elements start to fall into place.

3. “Oh... Alright, I get it.” As the film comes to an end, so much crazy and ‘wtf’ moments have occurred and it has your head spinning. Then once you start getting the big inside-joke of the film, you’ll either laugh or kind of mutter out a “wha...” followed by a raised eyebrow. Either reaction could still mean you enjoyed it, and actually kind of like it. At first you may want to resist the film’s ending, considering how unusual it is, but at the same time you might even figure out where the film’s heading before it even happens. Ultimately you’ll probably accept In the Mouth of Madness as a pretty clever film that leaves you thinking.

In The Mouth of Madness may be one of the oddest films I’ve seen in a while, considering how confusing and cray-cray the plot can actually get. The horror, and even quirkiness, of the film kind of makes you laugh in horrified exhaustion, because you’re just so thrown off on where this film is actually going to end. Sam Neill, as the cynical investigator, is great and entertaining; you’re pretty much relating to him when crazy starts to go down. Although the film can leave you kind of confused, and with very strange dreams - it makes you think and it’s GREAT when films do that. It’s a good film experience, but don’t let the hype distract; it’s good only if you appreciate cleverness.


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    • callmejam profile image

      Jamilya 5 years ago from Brooklyn, NY

      I believe that the effects are supposed to be similar - if not the same; if you watch / read the story you essentially become part of the madness. Thus you must ask the question: as viewers, did we become part of the madness? Are we now crazy? Which is funny to think about.

    • bernard.sinai profile image

      Bernard Sinai 5 years ago from Papua New Guinea

      Thumbs up! I've seen this film a couple of times and I'm still confused. At the end the story suggests they were making a movie of the film but would it still have the same effect as the book? Or would it have an entirely new effect on the mass audience?