CC: In the Mouth of Madness

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

CC: In the Mouth of Madness

The film pays tribute to the work of seminal horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, with many references to his stories and themes.  Its title is a play on two of Lovecraft's tales, The Shadow Over Innsmouth and At the Mountains of Madness, and insanity plays as great a role in the film as it does in Lovecraft's fiction.  The opening scene depicts Trent's confinement to an asylum with the bulk of the story told in flashback, a common technique of Lovecraft's. Quick reference is made to the Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as to Lovecraftian settings and characters (such as Mrs. Pickman).  As read on-screen, Sutter Cane's writings even incorporate direct passages from his work.  All of Sutter Cane's novels have similar titles to H.P. Lovecraft's books.

  • The Breathing Tunnel
  • The Feeding
  • Haunter Out of Time (parody of The Shadow Out of Time)
  • Hobb's End Horror (parody of The Dunwich Horror by H.P.Lovecraft and The West End Horror by Nicholas Meyer)
  • In the Mouth of Madness (parody of At the Mountains of Madness)
  • The Thing In The Basement (parody of The Thing on the Doorstep)
  • The Whisperer of the Dark (parody of The Whisperer in Darkness and The Haunter of the Dark)

 
The film can also be seen as a reference to Stephen King, who, like Lovecraft, also writes horror fiction set in New England hamlets.  King is even mentioned towards the beginning of the movie; it is suggested that Cane's work is more frightening than King's and that he out sells him.
 

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: John Carpenter
  • Produced:
    • Michael De Luca 
    • Sandy King 
    • Artist W. Robinson
  • Written: Michael De Luca
  • Starring: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, J├╝rgen Prochnow, David Warner, John Glover, Bernie Casey, Charlton Heston, Frances Bay, Wilhelm von Homburg
  • Music:
    • John Carpenter 
    • Jim Lang
  • Cinematography: Gary B. Kibbe
  • Editing: Edward A. Warschilka
  • Studio: New Line Cinema
  • Distributed:
    • New Line Cinema  
    • New Line Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 3 February 1995
  • Running Time: 95 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Dr. Wrenn visits John Trent, a patient in a psychiatric hospital, and asks Trent to recount his story:

After exposing an arson-fraud scam, Trent, an insurance investigator, has lunch with a colleague who preps him on his next assignment, investigating a claim made by New York-based Arcane Publishing.  During their conversation, Trent is attacked by a man wielding an axe who asks him, "Do you read Sutter Cane?"  The man is shot dead by a police officer before he can harm Trent.

Trent later meets with Arcane Publishing director Jackson Harglow who tasks him with investigating the disappearance of popular horror novelist Sutter Cane.  Cane vanished days before his latest book was released, and Harglow requests that Trent recover the manuscript for Cane's final novel of his popular series.  He assigns Cane's editor, Linda Styles, to accompany him—Cane's agent will be of no help as he was the man with the axe who tried to kill Trent earlier.

After reading several of Cane's novels for research, Trent experiences vivid nightmares of monsters and deformed people murdering each other with axes.  Linda explains the stories are known to cause disorientation, memory loss, and paranoia in "less stable readers."  Trent remains skeptical, convinced that the disappearance is merely an elaborate publicity stunt.  Trent notices a series of red lines on Cane's book's covers that, when aligned properly, form the outline of New Hampshire and mark a location alluded to be Hobb's End, the fictional setting for many of Cane's works.

As they set out to find the town, Linda experiences bizarre phenomena during the late-night drive: a boy riding a bicycle whose visage changes as she somehow passes him three times, the yellow road lines vanishing followed by the road itself disappearing, the car driving above thunderhead storm clouds, entering a rustic covered bridge in darkness and inexplicably arriving on the other side at Hobb's End in daylight.  Trent and Linda search the small town and begin encountering fictional people and landmarks described in Cane's novel, including Mrs. Pickman, whose hotel they check into, and the Black Church, described in Cane's books as a fount of evil that pollutes the entire town.  Trent and Linda watch as a group of townspeople arrive at the Black Church wielding shotguns and torches, demanding Cane return a missing child.  Johnny, the son of one of men of the group, suddenly appears in the doorway to the Church, supplanted by Cane himself.  The townspeople are then set upon by dogs and driven off.  Trent believes the events to be staged, but Linda does not.  She admits to Trent that Arcane Publishing's claim was indeed a fraud and a stunt to promote Cane's book.  However, the unusual events and exact replica of Hobb's End were never part of the plan.

Trent prepares to go back to report to Harglow, but is prevented when Linda steals the car keys.  She heads to the Black Church to confront Cane, and is exposed to his final novel, In The Mouth Of Madness, driving her insane. Trent is approached at a bar by Johnny's father who warns him to leave before the evil infects him as it has the inhabitants of Hobb's End.  Trent later returns to the bar and witnesses the man commit suicide with a shotgun as he proclaims to merely be a character written to do it.  Outside the bar, a mob of mutated, monstrous-looking townspeople descend upon him with shotguns and torches.  He flees to the hotel and discovers that Mrs. Pickman (who had been tormenting her husband and finally killed him) and Linda have also been altered into mutated versions of their former selves.  Trent attempts to drive away from Hobb's End but is repeatedly teleported back to the center of town, subsequently crashing while swerving to avoid hitting Linda.  He awakens in a confessional where Cane explains that the popularity of his eldritch stories have created a sufficient amount of belief to free an ancient race of monstrous beings that will reclaim the Earth.  Cane further reveals that Trent himself is merely a character and has no choice but to return the manuscript of In The Mouth Of Madness to Arcane Publishing, ushering the end of humanity.

After giving Trent the manuscript, Cane tears his face open like a piece of paper, ripping a hole that leads into darkness and creating a portal to the dimension of Cane's monstrous masters.  Trent flees down a long tunnel as monsters chase him and he suddenly finds himself lying on a country road, apparently back in reality.  During his return to New York, Trent destroys the manuscript, but it somehow is redelivered to him, prompting Trent to destroy it again and again.  Back at Arcane Publishing, Trent relates his experience to Harglow and explains why he has no manuscript to return.  Harglow informs him that Linda never existed; Trent was sent alone to find Cane. What is more, Trent himself had delivered the manuscript to Harglow months ago.  In The Mouth Of Madness has been on sale for weeks with a movie adaptation set to release soon.  Trent suffers a psychotic break and is arrested after he murders a reader of the newly released novel with an axe, asking him "Do you like the book?"

Dr. Wrenn, after listening to Trent recount his story, concludes that Trent's story answers nothing and leaves.  That night, amidst a thunderstorm, Trent sees disturbing shadows flicker on the wall and hears human and inhuman screams echo throughout the hospital.

Trent wakes the following day to find his cell door torn from its hinges and the residents of the hospital slaughtered. He departs as an abandoned ambulance's radio announces that the world has been overrun with mutant creatures and outbreaks of suicide and mass murder.  Trent goes to see the In the Mouth of Madness metafilm only to discover that he is the 'star' of the film.  As he watches his previous actions play out on screen, Trent bursts into laughter which becomes more and more hysterical before finally turning into sobs of despair.

The film received mixed critical reaction, with 14 positive reviews out of 29 tallied by Rotten Tomatoes for a score of 48%.  Over the years however, much like the previous two installments of Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy" (The Thing and Prince of Darkness) the film has acquired a cult following.


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