In The Mouth Of Madness


Top 3 John Carpenter Films

3. In The Mouth Of Madness
2. The Thing
1. Halloween

It has been nearly a decade since Carpenter has given us a new feature film, though the glimmer of hope came with his entry in the Masters Of Horror series: Cigarette Burns then flickered the next season with Pro-Life.  Either way these two hour long films make up for his last foray in filmmaking: Ghosts Of Mars, a film so bad no one wants to include it in their Carpenter collection.

There's a lot of talk of his comeback, with three films slated to be delivered over the next year we thought it would be good to start going through his filmography again.  The one film all of us agree on here at CineNiche is Halloween - the ultimate landmark in horror cinema.  Michael Meyers will always strike fear into our hearts and for good reason - his image is iconic and terrifying.  It is in the films simplicity that fear grows.  Over the course of Carpenter's career he has swayed between action and horror with an ease seldom seen in genre filmmaking.  From the start with his sci-fi film Dark Star (written by Dan O'Bannon of Alien and Return of the Living Dead fame) to his ultra gritty action film Assault On Precinct 13 to his romantic drama alien film Starman, there was a day that Carpenter could do no wrong.  Even progressing further into the eighties we saw Escape From New York, The Fog,  Christine, Prince of Darkness, Big Trouble In Little China, and They Live - showing that even when some of his films were flawed there was also something beautiful to them.

Out of the three flawless films of his career, In The Mouth Of Madness stands out as a masterpiece in chaos. Sam Neill delivers a perfect performance as John Trent, a claims investigator.  Trent has made a living for himself by doubting everything and believing there's always an angle.  He is usually hired by insurance companies to find out fraudulent claims and thus has forged a life of truth against deception.  His newest client is a publishing company who represents pop sensation Sutter Cane, whose writing is the perfect amalgamation of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and H.P. Lovecraft.  The publishing house wants Cane's newest book but after Cane went missing they want to be paid regardless either the pages or the insurance if Cane is dead.  In the background, overheard on television, or radio broadcasts there are reports of rampant violence and insanity that has begun to take hold on the world.  John Trent sets out to prove Cane's disappearance as just a publicity stunt.  Along with Linda Styles, Cane's editor, they leave the city to find the fictional town of Hobbs End.

John Trent descends into madness throughout the film as does the entire society around him.  He struggles with the difference between reality and fiction feeling that his grip, once very strong, is slipping.  This makes John the perfect catalyst for the apocalypse.  A man of stubborn truth falls into Cane's trap.  Most people who read his work are weak willed, which destroys their link with reality quickly and allows Cane to control them.  To destroy Trent's vision of reality takes a lot more and therefore makes him the perfect character for Cane's latest work: In The Mouth Of Madness.  In the last quarter of the film we realize the book Cane is writing to end the world is actually the story of John Trent's descent into madness.  The film is brilliant and takes a few stabs against the Bible as well, saying people used to believe in the Bible but now they believe in Sutter Cane.

We would like to honor your comeback Mr. Carpenter by saying: Welcome Home, we've missed you!

Rating: V/V

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