In the Mouth of Madness - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

In the Mouth of Madness Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 6, 2007
Soft like yellow baby poop.

Apparently, the only thing worse than being stuck in a hack Sutter Cane story is being stuck in a hack John Carpenter movie.
Super Reviewer
October 14, 2012
Now this is your complete John Carpenter experience right here, the perfect type of film for his crazy ass imagination. Everything Carpenter made prior to this has elements all rolled in resulting in classic Carpenter horror mixed with body shock mutations.

The plot is creepy as it is surreal. Sam Neill is hired to find a missing horror writer in a small sleepy leafy US town, boy does Carpenter love small US towns. He must find Sutter Cane and retrieve his final novel for publishing. Sounds simple eh? well think again.

When I first saw this film it creeped me out a lot, these days it doesn't have the same kind of punch but its still solid. Carpenter goes into overdrive here with lots of trademark icky effects and monsters, most of which look like ideas from 'The Thing'. As usual effects are created with models and puppets which do now look a bit hokey but plenty of makeup and prosthetics and good use of suggestion.

The whole film is extremely surreal and plays out like a nightmare, in fact the whole point is you don't know if it is a nightmare or reality. Pretty much anything goes really as Sam Neill goes nuts trying to get out of Hobb's End and destroy the final evil horror manuscript. This surrealist approach does work and offers up plenty of weirdness which does equal some nice eerie moments, the ghostly boy cycling along the dark deserted highway at night being a good one.

The start of the film is definitely better than the second half and ending. The film is much more creepy as Neill and his female sidekick leave for and arrive at Hobb's End. After Neill gets what he needs and we return to reality the film slightly loses its mysterious spooky essence, the final sequence is an interesting twist to make you think.

Basically a descent into madness for Neill's character, but we're not even sure if he is a real person or not, could it all be part of the horror novel itself?. Its left to your own thoughts really which is cool but annoying also, I like to know what happens period.

If your a Carpenter fan then this will appeal with tentacled monster puppetry, creepy kids running about, satanic references and all set within a Michael Myers type American pie town. Just don't expect too many final answers regarding characters and plot.
Super Reviewer
November 14, 2013
An insurance investigator investigates the disappearance of a bestselling horror novelist whose books have the power to drive men mad. The pioneering meta-horror premise compensates for an ordinary execution.
Super Reviewer
½ April 25, 2013
After "The Thing" in 1982 and "Prince Of Darkness" in 1987, director John Carpenter completed his self-titled 'Apocalypse trilogy' in 1994 with "In The Mouth Of Madness". Unfortunately, by this point, Carpenter couldn't get any strong studio backing for his projects and as a result his excellent concepts never really took off as well as they could have. This film is another example of the financial problems that he was facing.
When renowned horror writer Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow) makes a sudden disappearance, strange things begin to happen. His ability to describe evil, literally, starts to come to life and effect everyone in society. To investigate his mysterious disappearance, Insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) is sent to a little East Coast town called Hobb's End. However, this little town is actually a figment of Cane's imagination and Trent soon finds himself questioning his own sanity as he is drawn further and further into the dark recesses of Cane's twisted mind.
As always with Carpenter, the concept and premise is one of sheer brilliance and it possesses more than few references to real life horror writers Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft but unlike his previous efforts there is something amiss here. Maybe it's because Carpenter doesn't actually write the script himself or even compose the soundtrack with the idiosyncratic and atmospheric style that fans of his will be accustomed to. Despite the excellent premise, I found that the films major issue was a lack of drive. It didn't catch me the way it did when I first seen it. Also, it suffers from a failure to bring a depth to any character other than Sam Neill's investigator. Sutter Cane is a very intriguing antagonist with a lot of potential but he features very little and when he does appear, the films budget is tested in order to realise it's horror. All in all, this struck me as an attempt from Carpenter to appeal to a wider audience and as a result sacrificed the very style that made him a unique filmmaker to begin with. That's not to say that this is a poor film. It's not. It's very cleverly constructed and for the most part, very well delivered. Carpenter is a master at his build up and construction of atmosphere, meanwhile, cleverly unravelling the mystery. However, the film takes a little too long to get going and just when it's hitting it crescendo, it feels rushed and over a bit too soon.
For the most part, Carpenter does well to blur the lines between fantasy and reality but ultimately it doesn't quite come together as obscurity and pretentiousness creep in. It's a great attempt, but Carpenter has delivered better.

Mark Walker
Super Reviewer
June 7, 2012
What started out as a pretty good film turned into a disaster midway thru the movie. Not much here, but some pretty good special effects and costumes. 2 stars
Super Reviewer
½ September 16, 2011
John Trent: God's not supposed to be a hack horror writer. 

"Lived Any Good Books Lately?"

In The Mouth of Madness was a surprisingly good movie. From the critics response to it; it didn't sound like a great movie, but I found a lot to like from it. The story is very cool and Sam Neill makes everything very enjoyable to watch. John Carpenter's direction is solid and In The Mouth of Madness actually ended up being one of my favorite movies from him. It's not quite up to the level of Halloween, but it is certainly a better than average thriller. 

The setup is absolutely amazing and for a while I wondered how Carpenter was going to wrap this thing up and make it seem satisfying. I didn't think he could. I was wrong. I found the ending to be a perfect ending to the story. It's brilliantly funny and sort of terrifying if you think about it. That brings me to the genre. I've heard this classified as a horror film, but I can't justify calling it that. It's a psychological thriller. It has a few horror elements, but a it's core it is a psychological thriller. What makes it a convincing one is the strong performance from Neill. For some reason I always think I'm going to dislike Neill; then I watch a movie with him in and I always love his performances. Here is no exception. He gives a performance where he has to play both a sane somewhat boring man and a crazy lunatic. He pulls them both off easily.

In The Mouth of Madness is an extremely underrated and overlooked movie. I think the brilliance of the concept is lost amongst some in the crazy development of the characters and plot. Movies just don't get much cooler and fun than this. I loved this film.
Super Reviewer
½ September 6, 2011
Maybe I needed to see this back in 1994 to appreciate it? I don't know, but it sure had that cheap 80's movie appeal to me. Just wasn't for me...even if it had Sam Neill in it.
Super Reviewer
June 4, 2011
When it comes down to people that write for a living, there are two things that scares them the most. The first being that of an obsessed fan that will do anything to be with that writer. The next is when people take their literature so seriously that they go mad if anything should happen to the author. This is a story about what would happen if an author who writes horror (and is claimed to be more popular than Stephen King) disappears and when people read his latest book, they go mad. To be honest, this is less of a horror film and more of a tribute to the great horror classics of our time stretching from the aforementioned Stephen King to the great H.P.Lovecraft. Okay, in terms of direction, this is one of Carpenter's best from the 1990's. The tempo of the film is about moderate to fast. It keeps your attention which is something to say about Carpenter's films in the 90's. Acting wise, one of the weaker parts. To me, it seemed like the actors knew that they were in a film that would make money due to the director so they only give mediocre performances. While not the worst, it could have been much better. The script for the film is easily one of the most intelligent once that is in Carpenter's catalog of films. If you are watching this film for the first time, be prepared to hit the replay button to see the film for a second time. Trust me: This is a film that needs to be seen about two times to fully appreciate and understand what is happening. Now we finally have the score. For the most part, the score is like the acting: mediocre but it has his moments. So, overall, this is a rather intelligent film but lacks the complete qualities that it takes to make it great.
Super Reviewer
½ April 26, 2007
Chalk full of both heebees and geebees. The last descent theatrical film Carpenter made. Cigarette Burns is pretty solid thou
Super Reviewer
March 22, 2009
A fascinating fantasy movie with some great special effects, but, at times, it gets a bit too imaginary to hold your interest. The actress playing Linda Styles was terrible.
Super Reviewer
February 22, 2009
Hmm, I thought I was going to really enjoy this movie and I just couldn't get into it at all. The production values are unusually high for recent(ish) Carpenter but the script is a mess and Sam Neill's monstrous overacting doesn't exactly have me wringing my hands with concern for his character. A couple of very minor spooky moments excepted, I think I wasted my time with this one :(
Super Reviewer
November 29, 2009
I don't find it to be some of John Carpenter's best work, but it is a good film. It is an extremely bizarre story that takes the viewer's very grasp of reality and skews it. Nothing is what it seems and it all becomes a loop hole. Sam Neill was great and was perfect at playing such vast range of emotions. It is definitely made for fans of the genre, but delivers on almost every account.
Super Reviewer
October 8, 2007
Quite good despise it's flaws. Carpenter's last decent film and proof that you can create creepy material without the need of using buckets of blood, or making all your characters into idiots that give their backs to derranged killers.
Super Reviewer
October 15, 2009
The idea of such lowbrow horror spawning such madness, is a hard one to go along with. It's also never really clear how serious the film is about it's themes. The story of a man trapped inside a horror novelist's world is a great one for Carpenter. It means he can use all his skills and visionary tactics, to assemble some wonderful creatures/vignettes, even if the film as a whole fails to really capture. Neill is a fantastic lead, making his sane-man in an insane world (or vice-versa) easy to associate with. It does seem older than it is, probably because this really feels like Stephen King territory.
Super Reviewer
½ February 2, 2008
As a huge Lovecraft reader, I think the best film versions of his work are movies like these where the script is essentially fantastic fanfic.

This film is hypnotically creepy and I loved every second of it. Mind you, in addition to my Lovecraft love, I am also fascinated with films about novel authors and love the possibilities of a sanitarium setting done to delightful melodrama proportions like this one.

Those goodies said, this is not an accessible film because it is essentially set inside the mind of a madman. If you hate dream sequences come alive and living scenes descending into nightmare, with all the odd and inexplicable dream logic intact, you will find yourself swamped by WTF? moments and not be able to enjoy the creepiness on display here.

The ending for me is one of the few "twist" endings I find satisfying. The effects are top notch as one would expect from Carpenter. THE BIG FX EXCPETION: On principle, I disagree with showing full "Old Ones" or any such Lovecraft "deities" or "indescribable" creatures because they are MEANT to be indescribable and thusly impossible for us to even comprehend were one ever to be real and appear to a human, much less be possible for any human to replicate the experience - and to IMAGINE what these creatures could look like is an insult to Lovecraft's central driving theme of fear of the unknowable. In this film, the Old Ones on display are not an exception to this rule of "Don't show the top tier Lovecraft nasties" - they aren't indescribable horror finally and unbelievably realized, but instead just the exact sort of effects installation style you would expect from John Carpenter. I LIKE his style so I'm not as offended by what was done here to Lovecraft creatures so much as the horrendously awful CGI Dagon in Stuart Gordon's Dagon.

To me, this is undeniably a horror classic and every horror fan should have this on their to-see list or objective "Best of Horror" lists. The real test of genuine greatness is that my dreams the night after screening this film were looping bits from the film with tiny touches of my own subconscious added details.
Super Reviewer
½ March 5, 2009
Wow, I didn't expect this, I had a wonderful time watching this well-made fun movie & what makes it really great is its ambition & Sam Neill is always fun to watch but that woman was somehow annoying and the film has a few forgettable flaws, I'll definitely check out Carpenter's other movies
Super Reviewer
July 2, 2007
Some Minor Spoilers Here***********************************************************

I think In the Mouth of Madness falls into that column of John Carpenter films that fans of his will either love or hate and I could understand the points made for the latter. It is a little hard to get into, at first, as being a very strong film based on the sharply timed shocks and paranoia of Carpenter's horror as a director as well as the ideas presented by the writer, and it does veer into going into the same wild level of deliriousness that soon enough becomes the lead character. But it's a work as well where Carpenter is testing himself, and succeeding in a carefree but controlled way, where he goes for having his cake and eating it too. He gets to throw up on the screen some grisly (and, as a possible tip of the hat to the groundbreaking effects from the Thing, a sometimes funny knock-off) special creature effects and with some masterful displays in editing through the images of abstractions into the character's subconscious, while questioning what he's doing all the time, or at least the genre he and others (notably Stephen King) make their bread and butter.

It's a sort of slightly smarter pulp sci-fi/horror piece, not quite at the insane brilliance of They Live though perhaps in its more deliberate fashion a little creepier, as investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) is investigating the disappearance of a severely popular horror novelist, who's books sometimes make people go a little nuts. Trent sees this first-hand from novelist Sutter Cane's agent, who comes at him wielding an axe (it's one of those pure points in the film that mixed the macabre and satire) He thinks it's a hoax, and soon discovers that he may be in a (fictional?) town called Hobbs End in New Hampshire. What he finds, in typical Carpenter fashion, is describable as being a psychological flip-flopper, where Trent goes from thinking it's all a gag with it being very elaborate, to it suddenly not being, at all. Creatures (supplied wonderfully by KNB) start popping out, disgusting ones that aren't much human, and it even gets to Trett's female companion/literary liaison on the trip. Soon Cane is found in some dank cellar (Jurgen Purchnow, one of Carpenter's most chilling villains in how subtle he is), and he has a new book ready for Trett to bring to the world...

This isn't quite where the film gets weird, though it's probably a little before or a little after this point, and the kind of weirdness I had been hoping to build up. Although it does get close for writer De Luca to being shaky with balancing really dark humor- however in small doses, and depending on how seriously one takes the more overt horror elements- and at the plight of Trent's mind-set in the midst of total Armageddon, Carpenter levels the playing field without missing too many beats. I kept having my mouth hang open either in a 'what the hell' mode or just in sort of plain shock. But it's an entertaining mix and match all the way for a genre fan, and Sam Neill is definitely up for the challenge of playing as well level-headed and rational Trett for the first half, then slowly but surely descending into his own subconscious state of peril- or, perhaps, Trent losing sight on what is perceived as reality or not. Only Neill could go between serious dramatic roles to films like this and Jurassic Park, where his characters' confidence as the practical pragmatist starts to waver as a descent into disaster goes further and further.

What Carpenter ends on in the last section of his "apocalypse" trilogy isn't necessarily a closed-and-shut ending either; I sense that he wants things to be a little closer to the ending of The Thing where it's all doom and gloom but there's a wink to the protagonist's state of mind. Trett's last minutes wandering the streets and going into the movie theater watching himself doesn't really spell anything conclusive, I think, which adds all the more to the fun and intrigue. He could just be still in his hospital room, still in the world that dismisses Cane as pulp-sensationalist trash, albeit successful pulp-sensationalist trash (a little relevant today, eg Dan Brown), and not among the total bat-s*** mess that the world has become while locked in his padded room. It's a question left to the viewer, and a smart one to put up in a film that has by this point thrived mostly on its own sensationalism as well, tongue-in-cheek in the guise of crazy small-town break-out scenario. As a Carpenter fan, I say, bring it on.
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2007
Great ensemble of b-movie actors, and awesome John Carpenter special effects. Otherwise, it was okay.
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