John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness casts Sam Neill as John Trent, a hardened insurance investigator who is drawn into a progressively bizarre scenario after he’s tasked with locating a popular horror writer (Jürgen Prochnow’s Sutter Cane). Filmmaker Carpenter, working from Michael De Luca’s screenplay, kicks John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness with a striking (and engrossing) in-media-res opening that immediately captures the viewer’s interest and attention, with the movie certainly benefiting quite substantially from Carpenter’s typically eye-catching visual sensibilities and from star Neill’s charismatic and engaging turn as the skeptical central character. The engrossing vibe persists right up until around the movie’s rather sluggish midsection, as Carpenter delivers a somewhat meandering second act that emphasizes Trent’s is-it-real-or-is-it-in-his-head exploits to a fairly off-putting degree – with the ineffectiveness of certain sequences generally allayed, at least, by Carpenter’s superbly atmosphere approach to the material (ie there’s an innate creepiness here that proves difficult to resist). It’s equally clear, too, that one’s waning interest is resuscitated completely by an apocalyptic finale that ensures the picture ends on a thoroughly positive and memorable note, which does, in the end, confirm John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness‘ place as an erratic yet ultimately rewarding effort from one of the horror genre’s most reliable figures.
*** out of ****