From The Grave

Rediscovering In The Mouth of Madness

There’s always been paranoia about entertainment driving mass population to doing things society deems unpleasant. When news stories are written about violent crimes or a nut case takes his lunatic message on a walk in public, the E biz gets a bad rap. That’s when artists like John Carpenter gets busy and comes out with an underrated classic. 1995’s IN THE MOUTH OF DARKNESS came out and had terrible reviews. Okay, I admit this was during Carpenter’s phase of movies that lacked something. Vampires aren’t exactly a classic, but it is a fun watch. Ghosts of Mars is a terrible movie. Even his most recent film, The Ward, seems like Carpenter doesn’t give a crap anymore. In the Mouth deserved and deserves better infamy.

Sam Neil is brilliant in this film and Carpenter interprets the script as if he wrote it himself, making it a personal film. Yeah, he might want you to think this is a slap in conservative republicans, but it was made during the Clinton years, and Clinton and Gore made it to the Whitehouse on Gore’s wife’s campaign against lewd entertainment and they were the one that put labels on CD’s, DVD’s, and video games, not to mention the dreaded V CHIP in TV’s. The thing is what Carpenter preaches goes beyond liberal politics or conservative politics. It’s a person’s basic right to watch gory films or read trashy hack-written pseudo-porno books like Fifty shades of grey.

The movie starts with Insurance investigator John Trent (played by Sam Neil---Jurassic Park, Reilly, Axe of Spies, and The Piano) is being dragged into an asylum. In one of my favorite scenes, Trent is fighting with the asylum workers, and he kicks one in the crotch. They wrangle Trent and throw him in a cell. Trent looks through the bars and screams: “Sorry about the balls! I didn’t really mean it!” Dr. Wren (David warner---Time bandit, Time after time, The Omen.) visits Trent and this is where the story begins. Trent tells his story and why there is mass hysteria in the country. Trent has just uncovered an arson fraud and his boss is happy about that. At a restaurant, his boss tells him of his next case. Writer Sutter Cane (Played by Jurgen Prochnow---Das Boot, Dune, and Air force one.) is missing. Sutter Cane is a popular horror novelist that even out sells Stephen King. All through the movie there are little funny stabs at King (not that I’m saying King is actually one of those) and mostly an industry that creates these type of pop icons that care nothing more than sell books. This could be a publicity stunt and Arcane Publishers is his boss’s biggest clients, in turn, Cane is Arcane’s meal ticket.

Suddenly, a lunatic wielding an axe breaks through the restaurant’s window and attacks Trent, asking him: “Do you read Sutter Cane?” It turns out Cane’s books has been causing his readers to become violent. The publisher thinks it’s because Cane has gone missing and hasn’t delivered his latest book IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS.

Trent meets the publisher (played by legendary actor Charlton Heston----Planet of the apes, Touch of Evil, Ten commandments…the list is too long!) and his chief editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen---Fright Night II). It is decided that Styles should go with Trent to help with the investigation. She tells Trent that Cane’s books cause all sorts of problems, like disorientation, memory loss, and paranoia. The man who attacked Trent was Cane’s agent.

"In the Mouth deserved and deserves better infamy."

Cane notices all of the covers to Cane’s books have red lines across them. He tears the covers into pieces and just like a puzzle they form a map of New Hampshire. On this map is marked Hobbs End, a fictional town set in all of Cane’s books. Trent believes it’s a part of the disappearing towns in America. Trent and Styles drive to New Hampshire seeking this town. On the road there, they keep seeing a boy riding his bicycle in the wee hours. At one glance he is a boy of ten, the next he is an old man.

Somehow, someway, Styles found Hobbs End. The town is picturesque except mostly abandoned. They get a room at the local hotel and a sweet old lady checks them in. Trent has a conversation with the woman. She tells him she hasn’t seen anyone come through for years and never heard of Sutter Cane. In one scene, Trent questions her again. This time she isn’t as happy to answer questions. When Trent leaves, the camera pans down and we see a naked old man chained to old woman’s ankle.

Things get weirder, more references to Lovecraft, even a few creatures that could have sat well in any old Howie’s stories of madness and the bizarre.

The exterior of the Black church seen in this film is actually the Cathedral of the Transfiguration a Slovak Byzantine Rite Roman Catholic cathedral located on a lot that used to be part of the Victoria Square community in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. However, upon urbanization and development, the former cathedral is now unofficially designated as part of Cathedraltown in Markham, Ontario, Canada as it stands right in the centre of Cathedraltown and serves as the landmark of the Cathedraltown community. The rest of the town was shot in Markham, a town next to Richmond Hill.

The script was by Michael Deluca, an exec at the time with New Line Cinema, who has produced a lot of hits as recently as Moneyball and The Social Network. In the mouth of Madness has become something of a cult classic, finding admirers through the years and has been released on Blue ray by New line cinema in 2013.

Mark Slade, HMS

Read the previous installment.