RogerBW's Blog

In the Mouth of Madness (1994) 24 April 2022

1994 horror, dir. John Carpenter, Sam Neill, Julie Carmen: IMDb / allmovie. The insurance investigator is sent to find the wildly popular horror author, who's vanished with the overdue manuscript of his latest book…

I couldn't work out, on watching this, whether it was a bad good film, achieving much less than it should have, or a good bad film, achieving much more that expected from a low-quality foundation. There are some beautiful ideas here, most obviously in the malleability of the boundaries between reality and fiction; but rather than go beyond the basics, of saying "look, here's this neat idea, whoa man that's heavy", the film just moves on to the next practical effect. When someone discovers he's a fictional character after all, there's none of the soul-searching of Last Action Hero; there's just laughing insanity.

I'm starting to like Carpenter despite his special effects, I think; in The Thing they certainly add to the story, but here I find they distract from the huge issue of the breakdown of reality and bring the narrative down into the tawdry personal arena of something horrible wanting to kill you. There are lots of films about that already, even in 1994.

And then we get Jürgen Prochnow being splendidly messianic, not to mention coming to terms himself with the idea that what he thought was his own writing inspiration was always being given to him by Them. He's great, and he's set against the splendidly looming Cathedral of the Transfiguration (Markham, Ontario). More!

But no, bad viewer no biscuit, Sam's on the run, and as he tries to drive away he keeps finding himself back in the same place, and yes John we get it, you don't have to keep hammering on this same point…

Perhaps the problem is that I'm much more an SF fan than a horror fan: I treat the breakdown of reality as a problem to be understood and perhaps solved, not as a frightening idea to give me a frisson of horror.

It probably doesn't help that I don't think calling your characters things like "Gilman" makes this a Lovecraftian story; these outsiders rely on humans to open the way into the world for them, and no true Outer God would so demean itself.

As usual if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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