Insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) has found himself locked away in an insane asylum as the world turns to shit outside it’s walls. How in the hell did he end up here? Well, for starters he never should have taken on the case of investigating the disappearance of celebrated horror novelist and H.P. Lovecraft surrogate Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow); a huge cash cow for Arcane publishing. Said investigation takes our no-nonsense hero, an Arcane employee Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), to the small New England town of Hobbs End…a central location in Cane’s fiction. Once there they discover that not only are the characters in Cane’s stories real, but Cane himself holds the town in a grip of eldritch evil, as what he writes comes to demonic life! Will our hero escape from the madness alive? Okay, we already know he will…but what of the insanity he faces after?
Filled to the brim with ancient evil, cursed villagers, and creatures from another dimension, In The Mouth of Madness is not only a masterwork from legendary director John Carpenter, but pound for pound the best Lovecraft inspired piece of cinema ever committed to film. You see my boils and ghouls, ol’ J.C. got what made Howard Phillip’s writing so damned effective; namely atmosphere, and plenty of it…not to mention surreal creatures and visuals, an every-man hero driven to the brink of insanity by things no human mind was equipped to comprehend, and the sinister nature lurking just below the surface of every bucolic small town in the Northeast (trust me on this one fiends, it ain’t far from the truth…minus the squid creatures). And as right as he got the tone of the piece, the brilliant practical effects and creature suits really seal the deal…along with the pitch perfect acting of Neill, Carmen, Prochnow, and Vigo himself; Wilhelm von Homburg as a townie that has been pushed too far by the sinister forces infesting his home.
As amazing a fright flick as In The Mouth of Madness is, those devilish dolls at Scream Factory have included some choice bonus material on the Blu-ray release! First up we get a brand-new commentary by Carpenter and producer Sandy King and an archival track with Carpenter and cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe. Both are fun listens, but the former features a less energetic Carpenter (and more prolonged pauses), while the latter is non-stop anecdotes and technical info. Following those comes a fascinating tour of the film’s locations as they appear today, interviews with Carmen and special effects maestro Greg Nicotero, a collection of behind the scenes footage from the special effects crew, and a archival “making of” featurette. Lastly we get the film’s theatrical trailer and a handful of TV spots.
If you love the work of John Carpenter and/or H.P. Lovecraft, consider In The Mouth of Madness an essential; it’s surreal, packed with great acting and practical effects, and a great apocalyptic aesthetic blended flawlessly with the classic “small town evil” trope!
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