Rated: R for violence and some obscenities. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: February 3, 1995 Released by: New Line Cinema
John Carpenter, a director with a reputation for delivering some scary, interesting films in the past, such as The Fog, The Thing, and most notably Halloween, offers a new film in the same genre starring Sam Neill (Jurassic Park).
Neill plays John Trent, an insurance investigator hired by a publishing magnate (Charlton Heston) to find missing horror writer Sutter Kane. Kane's newest manuscript, hotly awaited by millions of his fans (this guy is "bigger than Stephen King," according to his editor, played by Julia Carmen) had disappeared along with the writer, so the publishing house is eager to find him.
Kane's stories are supposed to be so intense and real that the reader can't differentiate between reality and fiction and his fans, so influenced by his previous writing, have taken to rioting in the streets over the delay of his book.
Trent is skeptical about the impact that one novelist can have, but he agrees to search for him even though he thinks the whole thing is a publicity stunt. Trent reads some of Kane's old books in preparation and he too begins to find it difficult to tell whether he's dreaming or really experiencing the horrors he sees. Reality and fiction slowly start to merge and Trent begins to think he might be going mad.
Trent's character is very sketchy. You don't get to know very much about him, except that he smokes a lot and is good at his job. It makes it hard to care about what happens to him.
If you've ever seen Carpenter's The Thing, you've seen most of the special effects used here. They're not especially effective and in a couple of instances they're even unintentionally funny. He even resorts to having the lead characters grabbed from behind by someone in the shadows - something you'd expect from amateur directors.
In the Mouth of Madness has some interesting psychological theories, but as a horror film, it's a disaster. It lacks tension, suspense, and worst of all, it's just not scary!
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