Monday, March 9, 2009

67) In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

67) In the Mouth of Madness (1994) Dir: John Carpenter Date Released: February 1995 Date Seen: March 9th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5

As what may very well be John Carpenter’s last really good feature film, In the Mouth of Madness (1994) breaks no new ground in the veteran auto-didact’s varied oeuvre. There’s nothing startlingly innovative in this Lovecraftian pastiche but that’s just fine. Considering how he would follow Mouth with more schlock than his fans can forget through sheer force of will alone, it is a welcome addition to his highly touted canon. 

Carpenter’s ability to tell virtually goreless horror yarns that tease the viewer with Hitchcockian sight gags—let’s just say that the ol’ “now you see it, now you don’t” bit gets trotted out a lot—is on full display in Mouth. Though the film’s makeup and set design crew never let up, there’s only one or two scenes that rely on blood for their impact. Instead, the film relies on shallow but effective psychological hooks that are some of the best screen adaptations of Lovecraft’s favorite kind of horrors—the unfathomably grotesque. Because private dick John Trent (Sam Neill) cannot understand what’s going on, we only see what he sees in bursts and starts, making for some of the most satisfying horror montages I’ve seen in a while.

As hammy as the film’s high-falutin, m SubTerraneans eta-reflexive author-as-God explanations are, it fits perfectly with Carpenter’s usual game of peekaboo that he probably did best in Halloween (1978). Despite some minor speed bumps along the way, Carpenter had me going from start to finish and that alone makes me proud to continue my membership in the John Carpenter is American Horror Club for Troglodites and Other Subterraneans.

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