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John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)


And…finally in the John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy, we have In the mouth of Madness. At first, I heard lots of reactions towards this film…this makes me nervous a little bit although, as I said before, John Carpenter is my all-time favorite director. But luckily, what we have here is probably one of the most unusual horror films of all time.

The plot
An insurance investigator named John Trent has to find out about mysterious disappearance of Sutter Cane, a famous horror writer. Trent has no idea that his life will be changed forever after he read Sutter’s book. His life gets stranger and stranger…then, the strangest part begins when he and Linda Styles “accidentally” visits a small village named Hobb’s End, which is a fictional village in Sutter’s book. Does this mean that fiction becomes reality? Will they survive the terror of this small town and will they save the world from evil forces?

As you can see, this film is NOT about a serial killer or legendary ghost, it’s a mixture of monster horror, fantasy horror, and psycological stuffs (we’ll explain that in a minute). This film is unpredictable…yes, anything could happen in this film and this leads audience to find out about the story.

What’s the reality?
Before he accpets the offer to do the case, John was attacked by a mysterious guy who asks him “Do you read Sutter Cane?”. And although the next scene shows us the effect of Sutter’s book to his fans (we’ll also get into that in a minute), but his life will never be the same after reading Sutter’s novel. After he has series of weird dreams, he and Linda decides to go to Hobb’s End, a small town that exists only in Sutter’s novel…or do they?

Through mysterious power, they successfully find the village. John and Linda also learn that lots of details of the place like hotel’s receptionist behavior or the pitcture on the wall look exactly like the fiction universe! At first, John thinks that the whole town is just a publicity stunt (which, come to think of it, sounds pretty stupid. Why do you have to spend billions of dollar to create a whole town just to lure a detective?)…but as story goes by, he has to face much much scarier things and same events, like in the book.

Here are interesting points: How do we know that we live freely? Are you sure that you’re NOT a character written by someone else and live in the writer’s universe? Well, Linda has a great point about this…

“A reality is just what we tell each other it is. Sane and insane could easily switch places if the insane were to become the majority. You would find yourself locked in a padded cell, wondering what happened to the world”

This is the thought-provoking topic then you may have to think throughout the movie. To me, this is cleverer and more entertaining than an overrated film called Inception. While that film tries so hard to make confusing things more confusing and more cool, this film slowly build-up atmosphere and using horror elements as a vehicle to ask audience about the meaning of reality.

Book fans
As I said above, after someone tries to attack John, we see a news footage about how novels drive their fans crazy and somehow become a cult. We’ve seen “cults” from books like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Hunger Games, etc. Mostly, they are sometimes mad because of they want to read a new book so badly or heard someone bitching about their favorite book/characters. But in IMM case, the readers are insane because, somehow, the content in the book effects their lives. According to Sutter himself…

“Religion seeks discipline through fear, yet doesn’t understand the true nature of creation. No one’s ever believed it enough to make it real. The same cannot be said of my world. […] I’ve been translated into eighteen languages. More people believe in my work than believe in the Bible.”

What do we learn from this dialog? Besides issues about reality, it teaches us that the more people believe in your work, the more power you have. Sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it?

Horror Neo-Noir
One thing that many people might not notice is neo-noir elements. Yep, I think this is when horror and fantasy meets neo-noir. John is an anti-hero detective. He’s outspoken and…basically, he’s a carricature of protagonists from most of John Carpenter films: believe in his “way” and usually don’t give a crap about stupid things. Meanwhile, we have femme fetale like Linda. I can’t say much about her…you have to watch it to find out why I say that she’s femme fatale. And what about lighting and shadows in the good old noir style? We have them here, too.

This may not be the best John Carpenter’s film, but it’s probably the wildest one. The best way to watch your friends is just telling them that it’s just another “horror” movie with philosophical issues…but sounds better than Nolan stuffs.

Thumbs up.

About The Author
Nuttawut Permphithak
Nuttawut Permphithak
A student who's studying in marketing. He usually spends his free-time on watching movies, listening to music, reading books, and creating things you're probably reading/listening right now.

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