Tag Archives: in the mouth of madness

3. In the Mouth of Madness: A Study of Reality

The realm of literature is deep. It can transport us to new worlds, it can change our perception of reality, change our view of the world, and create wonders.

This is the background in John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness.

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This 1994  project is Carpenter’s tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, starring Sam Niell, Jürgen Prochnow and Julie Carmen, is my favorite among Carpenter’s filmography, as well as one of my personal favorites in my horror movie collection in general. Not without its flaws, it’s nevertheless an entertaining story, with interesting concepts.

The story is about John Trent, an insurance investigator signed investigate what happened to the popular horror writer Sutter Cane, the most popular writer in the world whose macabre novels negatively affects sensitive readers. They arrive in the town of Hobb’s End, a place taken straight from one of Cane’s books. Soon the distinction between reality and fiction is about to blur…

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One scene which sums up the tone of the movie and shows the pretext in the story, is where Trent sits in a confessional at a church, where Sutter Cane speaks to him:

”Do you know what the problem is with places like this? With religion in general? It’s never known how to convey the anatomy of horror. Religion seeks discipline through fear, yet it doesn’t understand the true nature of creation. No-one has ever believed it enough to make it real.”

Reality is what we believe it to be. What we are convincing ourselves. Reality is our perception of the consequences of our actions – the result of everyone’s actions. The quote above relates to the fact that we are able to shape the view of the world and make it a reality to many people.

The movie explores this in the world of literature. The author Sutter Cane affects readers around the world, transforming them into homicidal maniacs, as a result of the readers losing their concept of reality after reading through his books. If our perception of reality is shattered, the whole world is shattered with it. That’s the horror of In the Mouth of Madness. If you are the only sane man in a world full of insane people, you become the anomaly.

And the bottom line: reality can not be trusted. You don’t necessarily have control of your own actions.

I absolutely adore these kinds of mind-fucks. When you’re in the right mood, you’re beginning to distrust everything. Which, in many cases, is what a good horror movie should be about. Looking over your shoulder, being uncertain, imagining things you have know idea if they are true.

And pray to God you actually will have a good night’s rest.

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John Carpenter: A Study of Ideas

Have you ever heard a story that sounded like it had potential, but it turned out to be kind of empty? Or seen a movie that had a great idea, but not well-executed? Or read a book that lacked some kind of “substance” that could have made the plot richer? You get the feeling that something is missing?

That is the sense I get from John Carpenter.

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He is considered one of the classic masters of horror, a movie director who’s been active since the 1970s. His most famous achievement in the horror field has to be Halloween from 1978, which was one of the contributing factors to the creation of the “slasher horror movie”, before the genre went haywire decades later, with one pathetic cliché “teenage slasher movie” after another.

Carpenter has done a number of movies during the years, the ones in the 70s and 80s being the most commercial successes. However, time has been able to “reinstitute” some of his newer works in the film canon of impressive works of film horror. Personally, if I were a movie director, I would see that as kind of annoying. That my movies needs years of pondering and valuation before they are considered passable!

There’s nothing lacking in Carpenter’s stories, concepts and ideas. However, I find that the final pictures always contains a number of flaws. The idea starts out good, but doesn’t get a jump-start, or isn’t evolved to fit the story. Instead of a painting, you get a frame. Also, the characters tend to be too one-dimensional in order to drive the plot to its full potential. To me it’s just frustrating. All this potential, just within reach! A movie that could’ve been perfect is just “good”!

john carpenter dvdNonetheless, I enjoy every one of his movies. His directing is well-paced, there’s never any lack of atmosphere, when he’s contributing music to his own music the result is awesome, and the “worlds” he’s building up are always interesting to visit. And most of all for the entertainment value, and of the aforementioned ideas and concepts, which can inspire your own imagination, as well as giving the audience something to talk about when the movie is over.

Details, and some aspects of the basic premises in the stories, are often left in the dark. This can be a bad thing as well as a good one. In Carpenter’s case, I think it’s mostly a good one. One thing people often forgets is that horror is about atmosphere, and in order to achieve that you have to leave behind question marks. Carpenter always provide with answers, but still leaves behind a few question marks here and there.

In this series of posts, I will focus on some themes and ideas I find interesting. Plus, I do not intend to do a repertoire of his entire filmography. Instead, I will focus on his so-called “Apocalypse Trilogy”, which includes the movies:

The Thing (1982),

Prince of Darkness (1987),

and In the Mouth of Madness (1994).

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So, without further ado, I guess it’s about time I actually started DOING what I promised a long time ago. “For the next few days” my ass…

Anyway, like I’ve said before…

I’m not going anywhere!