Tag Archives: reality

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.


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…


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.