Spoilers like to skip to the ending.
It took me a while to remember seeing this movie a while ago. I did remember so much once I rewatched it though. This is meta-horror at its finest. It might not be as scary as it once was, but it has a nostalgic quality that recalls all of the classic 80’s and 90’s horror films based on books. As much as comparisons to Stephen King are easy to make, it’s being said that the actual tribute is more akin to H.P. Lovecraft.
In the Mouth of Madness (1994) was written by Michael De Luca and directed by John Carpenter. A freelance insurance investigator, John Trent (Sam Neill) is tasked to find famous horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow). Along with his editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), he decides to follow a clue that leads him to the supposedly fictitious town of Hobb’s End.
The problem right from the start is that Sutter Cane’s writing seems to evoke crazy, murderous thoughts in the more easily influenced of his readership which borders on a cult. This problem becomes more acute when Trent and Styles end up in the town that should not exist. Despite Styles’ insistence, Trent believes he’s just dealing with deranged fandom. Nowadays, that would sound a lot more believable, except we’re already seen enough unexplained phenomena to take the next bus.
Sam Neill plays Trent like a quintessential sleazy city slicker, and that works. Jurgen Prochnow’s performance as Sutter Cane should be over the top, but he keeps it rather subtle. I appreciate it, but given the over the horror classical scenarios that happen around town, I would expect some bigger-than-life personality. It still works to some degree. The rest of the cast is a bit of a mixed bag.
The effects are classical 90’s, where practical effects were still the rage. Some still sort of hold up, but work better in when you can only glint at them in the shadows and less out in the open. The cinematography is good. The movie does have pacing and tone issues, but keeps it a sort of horror and dark comedy theme as John Trent seems stuck in a nightmare that bends all the rules of reality.
Recommended for nostalgic reasons and also 90’s horror fans. It might rate higher if you’re a fan of meta-horror and a fan of horror book movie adaptations. Some effects might seem a bit dated unless watched through nostalgic lenses. Definitely it will not scare the jaded horror movie viewer, but if you watched scary movies growing up this will bring back memories. Strangely enough, recalling those can still make you smile.
That will do for now.