In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

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In the Mouth of Madness: B

I really enjoy this movie. I have probably seen it ten times and every viewing is a lot of fun.

IMOM is a meta-fictive movie about Sam Neill, who is either a character in a horror novel or a crazy person or both. A worshiped horror author named Sutter Cane (based on Stephen King) writes wildly popular horror fiction filled with terrifying world-eating monsters (based on HP Lovecraft). When Cane goes missing, Neill is enlisted to hunt him down. He somehow travels to a town that exists only in Cane’s books which is populated by a bunch of gross creatures from his body of work.

I like the psychological and reality-questioning elements of the film but they are by no means groundbreaking. The “dream within a dream” jump-scare/misdirection is (probably) overused in this movie and the schizophrenic meta-fictive structure of the film is very Naked Lunch; time and space are messed with a lot and the audience isn’t always clearly notified when this is happening. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining. Neil does a great job of slowly losing his mind and all of the rest of the cast (who may or may not be monsters or fictional characters or other crazy people or all of the above) is extremely creepy. Once the film gets going, you sort of get buried in dream sequences up to the point where the wizard behind the curtain “reveal” is kind of anti-climactic because you’ll be all “let me guess, Neil is going to wake up any second now?”

Say what you will about Sam Neill, but the man knows how to convincingly babble/cry like a crazy person.

The make-up is great and there are total homages to other famous works of horror. There is some awful 90s CGI, but there are some Carpenterian practical effects too. All the monsters are like Cthulhu’s relatives and there is a lady who walks upside-down like the girl in The Exorcist. The grandma from Happy Gilmore is in this and she is fucking hilarious.

People like to hate this movie and there are no shortage of anti-IMOM arguments. The movie is like a poster-child for bargain-basement 90s horror, so if you don’t find that genre scary or charming or at least funny, you’ll probably hate the movie. Also, it was directed by John Carpenter, a director who is extremely hit-or-miss for some because of his music and effects. Give it a try and decide for yourself.

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