When Sutter Kane (Jurgen Prochnow), the iconic horror writer (think of Stephen King in the 80s and 90s when people gave a shit about writers in genres aside from ‘young adult’) vanishes into thin air on the eve of the release of his globally anticipated book, cynics think it is a publicity stunt.
Of course, when their moneymaker goes missing, the publishing house wants answers. This is after all a massive source of revenue. They lodge an insurance claim, and the insurance company – fearing a huge payout – sends Mr Trent (Sam Neill) and company staffer Linda on what seems a wild goose chase, which leads to a small town that was supposed to only exist in Sutter Cane’s fictional works.
With Trent one of the few newbies to Cane’s work, he decides to immerse himself in some of his novels, dubious as to the transformative powers that the books are alleged to have over devoted readers. This scepticism soon fades once in the town, as too many of the fictional characters, locations and even events prove too real for Trent’s liking.
He and Linda start to confuse what is real with what was conjured from the tormented mind of an alleged lunatic, which is more disturbing due to the bizarre creatures, people and occurrences that proliferate Cane’s works.
Sam Neill plays Mr Trent straight for the longest time, perhaps using this experience to his advantage with the subsequently released Event Horizon. But the rest of the film, while strange, is largely incoherent and can’t even do Silent Hill as well as the mediocre Silent Hill films.
In the Mouth of Madness wants to be one of those surreal headfuck movies that will have you questioning reality – and to be fair it does have some cuckoo imagery and weird moments – but the stuff it gets right isn’t anything new, and the new stuff just isn’t that interesting.
Still, it will live on as John Carpenter’s last even vaguely interesting film, which is depressing when you realise that this is almost a quarter century old…
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. Carpenter tries his best to recapture the weirdness of The Thing, but can only create a strange jumbled freakshow.