Do You Read Sutter Kane? To the uninitiated, this phrase means nothing. It is simply an inquiry about an author you have not heard of. However, to those of us who followed John Carpenter in the 90’s we all knew that this was an invitation to Madness. Today’s Key Movie is an exploration in abject terror, in insanity, in madness. It is an exploration of the mind in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft. What a better way to start the new year off for Key Movies Of My Life than with one of my favorite Carpenter horror films, This is In The Mouth of Madness.
Today’s Key Movie:
Sam Neil plays as John Trent, an insurance investigator who soon discovers that an author’s works is having a dark toll on his readers minds and possibly on reality itself. As he investigates, Trent finds himself literally staring into the Mouth of Madness.
Why this movie?
If you have not figured it out by now, I love horror and, in turn, I simply adore the works of John Carpenter. I was introduced to Carpenter’s works at an early age with films such as The Thing, Halloween and Escape from New York. Immediately, I recognized that this man was someone special. Not only was he an amazing director, he was an accomplished writer and musician as well.
In 1995 I went to the theater on a date to watch the latest of the Carpenter films. By then, Carpenter had become a household name and, much like that of Tim Burton, we knew that Carpenter’s films would entertain in every way possible. You were almost guaranteed for a thrill of either the supernatural kind or something else entirely different. In the Mouth of Madness fit very much in the latter giving us something unique in a story that somehow manages to build on the very madness the story itself is about. I left the theater amazed at what I had seen, I can’t say the same for my date, lets just say she and I never saw another movie together. It was something special and that is why this is a Key Movie of my life.
The story blends several of my favorite things, Horror, Books, and Carpenter himself. At the time this film was released, Stephen King had taken the media world by storm with regular novels, tv series, and films being released to everyone’s enjoyment. This film takes on that popularity of a horror writer and turns it up to eleven. Imagine, if you will, that a writer is so good that he manages to channel something darker with his stories, allowing those things to actually influence the world around him. Imagine then that you are the only person to realize that this is happening and no one believes you, everyone thinks that you are, in fact, mad when it is the world itself that has fallen into madness. Frightening proposition right?
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
The thing you have to understand about Carpenter is he is not afraid to show you things that may scare you. He has no fear in revealing things in ways that will get under your skin for month even years after watching his creation. This is one of those films.
Ending what Carpenter himself calls his Apocalypse Trilogy, It is a dark tale that is not only a solid film but one that will make you want to watch it multiple times to catch every nuance and subtly in the film. Trust me, just one viewing is not enough.
Visually, this film is a masterpiece. Carpenter uses his years of talent to mess with the minds of the characters and the viewers alike providing a macabre world of insanity for the people of Hobbs End to live in. His use of darkness and light, wide angled shots coupled with the creepy tones of his classic musical genius gives this film a surreal nature that has been borrowed from in everything from other films to even video games such as Alan Wake and even Silent Hill.
Acting wise, this is Sam Neil in his prime. Coming off his work on Jurassic Park, Neil once again proves that he has the chops to be a leading man. While he wouldn’t do too many of them, Neil also proves that he was a natural fit for horror films making me wish he had done more with Carpenter in his early days. Costarring with Neil, Julie Carman as Linda Styles also gives us a tremendous performance as Kane’s editor showing a steady decent into madness that is echoed in Neil’s own. Carpenter has a way to get a tremendous performance out of even the smallest roles and it shows in every character that appears in this film. There is not a single dull moment especially the moments that are genuinely insane.
All in all, this is one of the finest horror films of it’s time. Using what may be one of the first uses of a meta-world in a horror film, we are presented with an unending nightmare that stems from the books of author Sutter Kane. Part Stephen King, Part H.P. Lovecraft, all other worldly terror, Kane brings to us a madness that is extremely well translated through the perfect direction of John Carpenter. With a nearly perfect performance by everyone, It is madness, it is torment, it is In The Mouth of Madness.
OK, where do I get this movie?
Shout Factory has been slowly re-releasing the works of John Carpenter in fantastic Bluray editions for some time and this one has been given the same treatment. With new box art, special features and more you can grab a copy here for around $25. Trust me, it is very well worth your while.
Fun note, this also happens to be Hayden Christensen’s debut film. He plays a paperboy. No destiny, not the chosen one, just a paperboy.
As the norm, here is the trailer:
Late To The Game 1/2/2020
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
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