“… much like John Trent I went insane but it wasn’t a book that did it, it was trying to figure out why people like this movie.”
Yesterday I was in the mood for some horror so I decided to finally watch In the Mouth of Madness. I only knew a few things going into this movie: It was directed by John Carpenter, it stars Sam Neill, and it is about a series of horror books similar to those of Stephen King but with more of a Lovecraft twist. What I didn’t know about In the Mouth of Madness was that it wasn’t going to be very good. In the Mouth of Madness stars Sam Neill as insurance investigator John Trent, a man tasked with finding the now missing novelist Sutter Cane. This journey lands Trent in Hobb’s End, a small town in New Hampshire that may or may not be the embodiment of Sutter Cane’s work.
I was legitimately surprised to find that In the Mouth of Madness was not a good movie (of course, in my opinion) because every mention of it I’ve seen have been people praising it. So let’s run down this metaphorical (not really metaphorical; it actually exists) list of things I didn’t like about it. First off, In the Mouth of Madness is pretty much entirely nonsensical. The movie outlines a basic plot for you toward the beginning, an insurance investigator trying to find a missing novelist, but as soon as Trent reaches the town of Hobb’s End everything goes out the window. The best way for me to describe the bulk of this movie would be to say that it is like a fever dream: everything you are seeing is so fucking twisted and fucked up, but there isn’t any coherency when it comes to plot. It’s almost as if the writer was thinking to himself: “What is super fucked up? A weird tentacle monster that possess people? Let’s throw that in right after the children chase the dog down the street”. Everything in this movie is just so fucking weird, way past the point of me being able to rationalize any of it. Don’t get me wrong I love weird shit, and some of the shit in this movie ranks with the best of ‘em, but most times it felt like the movie featured weird shit just to feature weird shit. There was an interesting idea threaded throughout that the town was mirroring the Sutter Cane stories, but apart from one instance it was never touched on again. If this idea would have continued then what we essentially would have gotten is an adult version of that Goosebumps movie that came out a while back. It would have been cool seeing all of these fucked up scenarios, and John Trent having to survive with the knowledge he gained from reading through Sutter Cane’s books. But instead what we got was kind of a mess. And the fact that the story was essentially being controlled by Sutter Cane himself took away any suspense. I never once feared for John Trent because I knew that the creepy creations that were chasing him were essentially wearing leashes.
As far as the effects in the movie go, they were 50/50. Some of the creatures in Hobb’s End were brilliant creations the likes of which can’t be topped, but others kind of looked like knock-off E.T. prototypes. I did appreciate that the film used practical effects where it could, but then again I don’t think there was really any other option (I mean, did you see how shitty the digital effects looked?). As for the soundtrack to the film there isn’t much to say. It’s pretty bog-standard for what you’d expect from a horror film, but I will say that the fucking terrible rock-ballad at the beginning caught me completely off guard. I would say that it set the wrong tone for the movie, but I would have trouble telling you what the tone of the movie actually was. First it tried to be a thriller, then it transitioned into horror, then it transitioned yet again into almost parody levels, then it finally surpassed parody and went full-on meta at the end; it was all just so bizarre. The performances in In the Mouth of Madness were nothing to write home about either. Once again it was pretty bog-standard camp coming from both of our leads. I do want to point out that the best performance in the film comes from Sam Neill, but only toward the end of the film. The madness that Neill conveyed with not only his eyes but the way he changes up his mannerisms was amazing. He really nailed the manic desperation that John Trent would have been feeling at the time.
Overall In the Mouth of Madness isn’t what I would call a good movie. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t say I liked it either. Instead of presenting a coherent, terrifying story In the Mouth of Madness opts to throw shit at you until you are confused and disoriented. One thing In the Mouth of Madness had going for it was immersion; much like John Trent I went insane but it wasn’t a book that did it, it was trying to figure out why people like this movie.
I give In the Mouth of Madness a C