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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

In the Mouth of Madness  (1995)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: July 24, 2018) – Reality and fiction transmogrify in teasing, twisting, shuddersome ways within the atmospheric frames of "In the Mouth of Madness." The film—director John Carpenter and screenwriter Michael De Luca's haunting tribute to the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King—made little impression when it was theatrically released in February 1995 (U.S. box office totals barely passed $8 million), but, as is so often the case with quality horror titles daring to break free from convention, it has increased in consideration and esteem in the intervening two-plus decades.

The ever-reliable Sam Neill stars as John Trent, an insurance investigator hired by publisher Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) to track down Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow), a rabidly famous horror author who has suddenly gone missing on the eve of turning in his latest eagerly awaited manuscript. Cane's work, his editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) says, tends to have a negative effect on his "less stable readers"—a claim John has already learned all too well after narrowly escaping a random axe attack perpetrated by Cane's homicidal literary agent (Conrad Bergschneider). John and Linda's search leads them to Hobbs End, N.H., not found on any map and, until they arrive, thought to be a purely fictional locale where Cane's novels are set. If this weren't enough, they gradually come to discover they very well may have entered into the pages of the writer's terrifying, monster-filled world.

Considered to be the third entry in John Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy" (following 1982's "The Thing" and 1987's "Prince of Darkness"), "In the Mouth of Madness" chillingly blurs the lines between truth and fantasy, between logic and the malevolently illogical. A love letter to the boundlessness of literary creativity and the dark corners where it can often take readers, the picture serves as a page-turner in cinematic form. In addition to the keen sense of macabre discovery within his narrative, Carpenter devises a number of particularly chilling moments: a ghastly nighttime drive haunted by a phantom bike rider; a kindly old hotel clerk (Frances Bay) hiding dirty secrets in the basement and behind the front desk; and a desperate attempt to leave Hobbs End sending John in a loop from which he cannot seem to break free. An opening prologue where a raving, straightjacketed John is brought to a mental institution acts as harbinger for what is to follow—and, indeed, if the third act of "In the Mouth of Madness" doesn't quite match its marvelous opening hour, it does culminate on just the right note of portent hinted at from the start.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Warner Bros. originally released "In the Mouth of Madness" on Blu-ray in 2013. The HD transfer on that disc was a fairly strong one, but Scream Factory's "Collector's Edition" release, featuring a new 4K scan of the original film elements, is a step above. This is a fresh, dignified, accurate presentation. The image's grain structure is beautifully resolved, helping to give texture to Gary B. Kibbe's lushly gothic cinematography. Colors are healthy and accurate, black levels are solid with only a minor instance of crush found in a nighttime driving sequence, and detail and clarity are top-notch as John and Linda explore the rustic, picturesque, increasingly foreboding New England town of Hobbs End. I spotted no age-related nicks, scratches, dirt or debris; this is a clean, satisfying transfer all around. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is excellent, bringing sonic layers to an effective sound design. The music score from John Carpenter and Jim Lang exquisitely complements a story featuring thunderous lightning flashes and the squeals of tenebrous, tentacled creatures lurking in the shadows (both of which bring rousing activity to one's surround speakers).

Blu-ray Features
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Producer Sandy King Carpenter
  • Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe
  • NEW "Horror's Hollowed Grounds" Featurette (11:30, HD) – Sean Clark visits the filming locations
  • NEW "The Whisperer Of The Dark" (9:46, HD) – An interview with actor Julie Carmen
  • NEW "Things in the Basement " Featurette (16:34, HD) – An interview with special effects artist Greg Nicotero
  • NEW "Home Movies from Hobb's End" Featurette (12:07, HD)
  • Vintage Featurette: "The Making of In the Mouth of Madness" (5:02, SD) – An EPK featuring on-set interviews with John Carpenter, Sam Neill, Charlton Heston and Jürgen Prochnow
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:46, HD)
Bottom Line
"In the Mouth of Madness" receives the reverent Blu-ray release it deserves with Scream Factory's bonus-filled "Collector's Edition" release. Those who already own the Warner Bros. release from 2013 and are wondering if it's worth the upgrade can rest assured it is. A superior 4K transfer and a wide array of worthwhile new special features, including a brand-new commentary track from John Carpenter and producer Sandy King Carpenter, ensure this is the definitive home video release of this eerie, original, literary, and altogether underrated '90s horror gem. Highly recommended.

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© 2018 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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