In the Mouth of Madness (1995, dir. John Carpenter)
Having recently delved back into the works of H.P. Lovecraft, I have a fondness for John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. I remember watching this movie with Mike back in the mid-90s, probably while I was still in high school. We had a habit of hanging out and renting VHS tapes of horror and comedy movies, sometimes action movies. Those were the top three genres that I remember watching the most during my high school years. We were pretty much fans of anything John Carpenter too, and I’m not sure if this is true for Mike, but I think the only John Carpenter film that I haven’t seen is his remake of The Village of the Damned, starring the late Christopher Reeves in one of his last starring roles.
All that I remember about the first time I watched In the Mouth of Madness was that it kinda freaked me out. The monsters I could handle, tentacles and all. But when the viewer’s perception, my perception of reality is called into question, I wasn’t prepared for it to happen. I mean, up until that point in my viewing habits, I was only used to a certain type of narrative structure and flow – everything was linear and relatively straight forward. The protagonist experiences, A, B, C, and so-on, until the end of the movie. But this movie literally had a moment where the fabric of reality, the movie screen, was peeled back and another layer of the movie’s narrative is created. All Hell breaks loose, and we eventually find the protagonist discovering that “reality” as he once knew it, was no longer reality, it had become fiction.
Fine. That was cool. But at that moment I do remember having a flash of “whoah, wait a minute. If he can acknowledge this shift in reality, what’s to stop me from having that same realization? Like, what if I’m a part of this weird narrative and someone is watching what I’m doing?” That moment of near-existential crisis after watching the movie is what I like about good horror, as it should provoke me into thinking about weird shit like that. I’m not usually thinking about the meta-cognitive aspects of media that I watch, but with this movie I had the prep to lead me into that kind of viewing habit.
There are some moments of dated references, some obvious nods o pop culture, but some really solid performances by Sam Neill and Jurgen Prochnow. Mike’s creep out moment has a female character turn into a human spider after surviving a car crash and scampering away, legs and arms flailing. I’ll admit, there are some disturbing moments of this movie that I’d rather not revisit, that being one of them.