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John’s Horror Corner: In the Mouth of Madness (1994), not a Lovecraft story, but clearly made for fans of Cthulhu mythos.

December 18, 2015

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MY CALL:  One of the finer horror movies of the 90s, this film is an under-recognized masterpiece.  I’d recommend this to fans of Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, and any movies that feature strong ancient evil-rooted stories and tentacled demons.  MOVIES LIKE In the Mouth of Madness:  Hard to say.  Just in concept, I’d suggest Dagon (2001), The Resurrected (1991), The Shrine (2010) and Bleeders (1997).  They all feature isolated locales and deliver us from rational thinking to an unraveled mystery.

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If enough people believe in something, does it become a reality?  Such is the question John Carpenter (Halloween, They Live, The Thing) horrifically personified with In the Mouth of Madness, which perhaps strikingly alludes to H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness.  The script wasn’t adapted from any specific piece of Lovecraft’s work, yet you’ll find his influence throughout the movie in the form of perversions of reality and time distortion brought about by an abyssal darkness-touched madness.

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Noirish detective scenes introduce us to the savvy insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill; Event Horizon), hired to locate the mysteriously missing author (Sutter Cane) of a Stephen King-style book series that has cultivated a cult-like following.  Cane’s readers suffer from delusions, memory loss, and riot like zealots during book releases.  Trent casually diagnoses this as mass hysteria, yet suffers weird dreams of evil mayhem and murderous mutant people shortly after accepting the case.

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Some elaborate puzzle-solving uncovers a hidden message in Cane’s work revealing his location.  So, following the clues, Trent travels to the mysterious town of Hobb’s End which has no business existing anywhere except within the pages of Cane’s novels.  Almost certain this is an elaborate hoax, Trent becomes increasingly obsessed.

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Now well-introduced to the notion of madness, we encounter various symbols of wayward travelers as enigmatic bicyclists, Cerberus-alluding trios of dogs protect the town’s church, and a slimy malleable giant wooden doors leading to another world.  Among the townspeople we witness a contorted Exorcist crawler, mutant mongoloid children, people in a painting go from normal to disfigured mutants to tentacle monsters, and an old lady with “tentacle boobs” hacks up her husband…just all sorts of tentacle monsters.

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IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, Frances Bay, 1994, © New Line

This story begins rooted in a rational reality and gradually unravels into complete madness and small roles by David Warner (Waxwork, The Omen, My Best Friend is a Vampire), John Mahoney (Smallville, Gremlins 2) and Charlton Heston.  On the way, we enjoy a fine diversity of great Cthulhu creature effects, loads of strong Cthulhu concepts (even if only loosely applied), and a fine nod to Stephen King.

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I was pleased with the acting, special effects, story, sets and character development.  This film is an under-recognized masterpiece.  I’d recommend this to fans of Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, and any movies that feature strong ancient evil-rooted stories and tentacled demons.  Enjoy, minions!

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