Blu-ray Review: John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (Collector’s Edition)



Over the decades, filmmakers have tried their best to adapt H.P. Lovecraft’s stories to cinema with extremely varying levels of success. These tales of a New England that had to deal with supernatural monsters seemed perfect for the movies, but very quickly the dream project turns into a nightmare because there’s no way to make the monsters look effective and horrific without having a massive budget. John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness: Collector’s Edition gets into a Lovecraftian state of mind without worrying about matching up to The Call of Cthulhu.

John Trent (Jurassic Park‘s Sam Neill) is an insurance fraud investigator who is just out having lunch with a pal when they’re interrupted by a man with an ax wondering if he’s read any of the books by Sutter Cane. Before Trent is completely recovered from the attack, he’s hired to search for Sutter Cane. Turns out that the horror author hasn’t delivered his script to the publishing house and the insurance company is on the hook for a lot of money. Publisher Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) has never met the writer and has no clue about him. The only one who seemed to know anything about Cane was his agent who just happened to be the guy with the ax. So it’s up to Trent to read Cane’s novels to find hints about the guy. He gets a hint from the covers that he’s in an off the map town in New Hampshire. He hits the road with Cane’s editor Linda Styles (Gloria‘s Julie Carmen) to get the manuscript. Things get weird quickly at the town of Hobb’s End that isn’t on the map. Trent and Styles realize elements of the author’s books are around the place including the woman running the hotel desk. Things get weirder as they track down Cane and start to fear his manuscript. What will happen to his fans if they read his words?

While In the Mouth of Madness didn’t do well at the box office, the film has aged well. Carpenter was about to get the Lovecraft feel without having to adapt a Lovecraft film. Viewers don’t have to argue if the creatures that pop up look like Cthulhu of the Dunwich Horror. Sutter Cane (Das Boot‘s Jürgen Prochnow) looks more like Neil Gaiman will look like than Lovecraft. So if you’re not a fan of Lovecraft, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on any jokes. Although you might get a laugh when you realize that the paperboy went on to an evil role. Neill holds your attention as the investigator who thinks he’s beyond this game. Carmen also is fine as she toys with Neill in various states. John Carpenter succeeds in making a Lovecraftian tale without adapting a Lovecraft story.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the monsters and the details in the Sutter Cane covers. The audio is 5.1 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio. The mix works best when there’s tendrils poking out of places. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentaries include the first with John Carpenter and producer Sandy King Carpenter. John also recorded a second with cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe. Carpenter gives a lot of insight into the production and the creepy effects. This was his first film made in Canada. Charlton Heston didn’t like Sandy. The insane asylum was really Toronto’s water treatment plant.

Horror’s Hollowed Grounds (11:30) is another tour of locations with host Sean Clark. He goes around the greater Toronto area. This is always a must watch bonus feature since Clark is so passionate about the films and trying to get us a sense what things look like now. The church is real although the neighborhood around it has changed. Unionville is the town that doubles as Hobb’s End.

The Whisperer Of the Dark (9:46) sits down with Julie Carmen. She landed the gig after working with John Carpenter’s wife on a movie of the week. She talks about working with the director.

Greg Nicotero’s Things In the Basement (16:34) gets a glimpse of the creatures from the man who makes The Walking Dead so gross. Greg had been working on the Bodybags series/movie when they went straight to Madness. He so enjoyed collaborating with Carpenter on a Lovecraftian story. Greg appears to be at the control panel of the Jupiter 2.

Home Movies From Hobb’s End (12:07) is video shot as tests during the production. There’s great footage of the tentacles coming out of a popcorn bucket. It’s a nice primer in movie magic.

Vintage Featurette – The Making of In the Mouth of Madness (5:02) gets us onto the set with John Carpenter. The director breaks down Sam Neill’s character.

Theatrical Trailer (1:46) traces Carpenter’s filmography to build up how this will be his best.

TV Spots (9:34) includes the normal TV promo and a bunch of longer cuts the seems to have been used to promote the film on other outlets like in store to get folks to rent the VHS tape.

Scream Factory presents John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. Directed by John Carpenter. Screenplay by: Michael De Luca. Starring: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow & Charlton Heston. Rated: R. Running Time: 95 minutes. Released: July 24, 2018.

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