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Horror movie-maker John Carpenter has given us some of the most iconic horror films and characters of the last 100 years. As of recently, he has gone into seclusion and away from filmmaking. My only hope is that he is conjuring up some epic trilogy of horror before he officially retires, because I am not ready for him to hang up his hat just yet. 'In The Mouth of Madness' is the last part in Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy with 'The Thing' (1982) being the first one and 1987's 'Prince of Darkness' following that. 'In The Mouth of Madness' might be one of Carpenter's creepiest films and will force you to question your own sanity by the end of it.
Carpenter's trilogy may be a little different than what you're thinking of in the form of an apocalypse. With 'The Thing', we see a threat to the world by the way of an alien invasion. In 'Prince of Darkness' we see our end of days in the form of a demonic entity, and with 'In The Mouth of Madness', it takes the shape of monsters and insanity. But these three films all have something in common. You never really see the apocalypse take place, as it is always open ended and the very beginning of something much more sinister. And with 'In The Mouth of Madness', it might just be the most evil we have seen Carpenter, as he was probably chuckling behind the camera with every scene, knowing that we the audience would begin to think we were going mad with what was shown on-screen.
Former New Line Cinema President Michael De Luca used to write and come up with stories for New Line's movie roster, and he completely left his audience in the middle of nowhere with 'In The Mouth of Madness'. De Luca's script borrows heavily from Stephen King's treasure trove of stories as well as H.P. Lovercraft as the movie follows an insurance investigator named John Trent (Sam Neill) who is trying to prove insurance fraud on a major book publisher.
We first meet Trent as he is dragged into a mental institution while screaming the he is in fact not crazy. The doctor of the mental hospital begins to play a song by The Carpenters, which is hilarious for all sorts of reasons, and allows a man who might be a doctor or a government agent to ask Trent some questions. With questions statements like "Things must be getting pretty bad out there to bring you in" or 'You think he's one of them" makes my nerves stand on in and this the story begins. Trent is at lunch with his main client as they are discussing the case of a missing author named Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow), a horror writer similar to Stephen King, but outsells every book on the market.
As Trent is discussing this new case, a man with an axe tires to kill Trent, but not before asking him if he reads Sutter Cane. Back at the publishing house, Trent is meeting with head publisher Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) and Cane's sole editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), as they make their case to Trent that his latest book hasn't been turned in when it's about to go to press. Not to mention that Cane has gone missing. Trent is not a horror fan, but begins to read some of Cane's work.
He begins to have vivid nightmares, where some truly horrific images pop up on-screen. He figures out through Cane's book covers, there is a map to a place called 'Hobbs End', and that the publishing company must have staged an elaborate hoax to sell more copies. Soon enough, Trent And Styles are set out to find Hobb's End', a fictional place similar to Stephen King's 'Castle Rock'. The road trip becomes increasingly terrifying with some very scary characters along the way, when the suddenly end up in Hobb's End. It's as if they entered a wormhole to another world.
Hobb's End is exactly what is described in 'Cane's book, down to every little detail, from the old woman who runs the hotel who keeps her naked husband chained to her leg to the demonic children who run and disappear at any given moment. Soon enough, we are trying to decipher what is reality and what is not. That line that separates the two is very thin and might even merge, as Sutter Cane himself might not be of this world anymore. It's really fun to see if there is a point when Trent actually leaves the real world and if he ever comes back to it, as he might just literally be insane or schizophrenic.
One thing is for sure, 'In The Mouth of Madness' is scary as hell, and will be having you leave the light on for dark nights to come. Carpenter never gives us any information as to think this is real or not, meaning his direction is spot on. He gives us the right amount of clues, but each clue draws up a dozen other questions and brings us right back to square one. If you're looking for a truly terrifying film, look no further that 'In The Mouth of Madness'.
'In The Mouth of Madness' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. On the commentary track, director John Carpenter and director of photography Gary Kibbe discuss the look of the film, and they seem to be very satisfied with it. From the theater to the DVD, and now the Blu-ray, this video presentation looks very good and is an upgrade from the previous formats. The detail is sharp with some well-defined closeups that show every particle of blood and gore nicely.
Textures and costumes reveal very fine detail as well. There is also a fine layer of grain, which is true to source, giving this horror movie a nostalgic feel. After all it came out twenty years ago. The colors look very good and are well-saturated. The blood is a haunting red with some blue tinting from time to time. There are a lot of darkly lit scenes where black levels could have been not up to par, but luckily they are. the skin tones are natural when the humans aren't turning into monsters, giving this video presentation top marks. There are no compression issued to speak of.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. The dialogue is always crystal clear, easy to understand,and perfectly balanced in the center channel, free of pops, cracks, and hissing. The really good stuff comes in the form of the creepy sound effects, music crescendos, and ambient noises that pour from the surrounds.
The sounds of bones crunching, roars, and all things that go bump in the night are all robust and loud, and at times will make you jump out of your viewing seat. The score by Carpenter himself and Jim Lang is as always iconic and eeire with a hint of rock n' roll. The dynamic range is wide and the LFE is excellent. This is a solid audio presentation.
John Carpenter's 'In The Mouth of Madness' is no doubt one of the creepiest and scariest films of all time. I consider this the last good John Carpenter film before the creativity and life drained from his work. This is a very different horror film. One that will leave you guessing on what just happened, even after the final credits roll. This movie is what nightmares are made of. The video and audio presentations are both excellent, but the lack of extras is unfortunate. However, this is still worth owning and is a great upgrade from prior releases. Even after twenty years, 'In The Mouth Of Madness' continues to scare and intrigue me.