director John Carpenter
When I first saw John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, I hated it. I can’t tell you much more about what my thinking was at the time, but it seemed a sure sign that one of the “Masters of Horror” as he had been dubbed, was on a downturn in his career.
The question of Carpenter’s career arc is one I’m revisiting, though sporadically. And as part of this revisiting, I re-watched In the Mouth of Madness and can certainly say that I see it differently now.
Sam Neill plays investigator John Trent, who is hired to find a missing horror writer, whose books have become more and more influential on his readers. We find this out in a long flashback, because the film opens with Neill being dragged into a sanitarium, straight-jacketed, and loony. What unfolds though is a film full of dream/nightmare images, arranged with the logic of a dream.
Some have compared it to David Lynch, and while that is a stretch, it’s possible to see the surrealism and its effect on the psyche. And some of what results are some striking images and unusual turns.
Having more recently watched Prince of Darkness (1987) and They Live (1988), I feel it’s safe to say that In the Mouth of Madness is not Carpenter at his best, but even as a lesser Carpenter flick, it’s got its merits.
Don’t know what was wrong with me in 1995.