John Carpenter has a massive appreciation for the works of H.P. Lovecraft. There’s no other Carpenter movie that shows it more than In the Mouth of Madness.
Carpenter set out to make love letter to Lovecraft, and it definitely shows. Even the movie’s title is a homage to the Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness. Instead of just focusing on the mythology aspect of Lovecraft’s work, he wanted to show the psychological aspect of it as well. In many of Lovecraft’s stories, there is a persistent theme of people going insane after learning some type of horrible truth. This is prevalent in the film and done in a way that really encapsulates what made those Lovecraft stories work. The tale is centered around Sam Neill’s character John Trent, who is investigating the disappearance is horror novelist Sutter Kane. Carpenter’s direction draws you in as always, making you feel like you’re right there with Trent. As the film progresses, we see his mental health deteriorate. The movie makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a Lovecraftian yarn. In the Mouth of Madness takes the time to build up that atmosphere, reflecting the progressive loss of sanity of it’s protagonist. By doing so, it has an effect on the viewer as well. I’ve always loved how Lovecraft’s stories would take you into the mind of it’s characters, Carpenter captures that perfectly. I wonder why he hasn’t directly adapted any of Lovecraft’s work. I also love how Sutter Kain is kept almost a complete mystery, you only get glimpses of who he is. Instead, the focus is on how his stories effect his readers. The world is falling apart as Sutter Kain’s stories increase in popularity. The viewer is the main character trying to make sense of something that they can’t fully comprehend. I cannot recommend this movie enough.
In the Mouth of Madness is currently available on Blu-Ray and DVD.