In Defense Of: “In The Mouth Of Madness” (1995)


Suffice to say, things soon take an even more mind-bending turn for the worse, when Trent finds himself checked into a creepy hotel in the middle of a mysterious town in New England called Hobb’s End, which is run by a sinister old lady who looks suspiciously like one of the characters straight out of one of Cane’s famous horror novels. As the plot begins to slowly unfurl – along with Trent’s believably skeptical psyche – the movie boldly shoots off into some really rather clever directions thanks to some excellent writing, smart editing and carefully calculated pacing.

The thing is, on release, Carpenter’s critically maligned flick was very much misunderstood by critics and audiences alike. Many moviegoers believed it to be a clumsy homage to Stephen King’s more easy to digest horror source material. On the other hand, many misinterpreted it as a scathing commentary on the mass-market consumption of world-renowned mainstream horror authors like King. The truth is, it soon becomes clear – particularly after multiple viewings – that it’s actually neither.

Instead, it’s a valiant attempt at translating the cerebral and thematically complex literature of H.P. Lovecraft into a feature film format. You see, this influential source material hinges upon some extremely epic and profoundly deep themes; the fear of the otherworldly unknown, the fragility of one’s sanity and the exploration of hopelessness in a world gone cuckoo, to name but a few.

Throw in a handful of slimy beasts that are hellbent on tearing their way into our very own plane of existence and you have the necessary components for a Lovecraftian tale, albeit, in movie form. Surprisingly, there are even lines hidden in the film which are taken directly from H.P. Lovecraft’s novels, which are read aloud by Trent himself when he’s perusing the fictional works of the movie’s antagonist Sutter Cane.

Carpenter really couldn’t have been any more clear about his obvious inspiration – he may as well’ve screamed from a mountaintop: “This film is inspired by Lovecraft, not Stephen King!” Alas, moviegoers were still left baffled by the horror experience way back in 1995 with soft box-office earnings ($8.9 million domestic haul from an $8 million budget) along with a raft of mediocre reviews, which undoubtedly left American distributor New Line Cinema somewhat disappointed.

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