Graced by the appearance of Charlton Heston and with the well established stars of horror, John Trent and Jurgen Prochnow, In The Mouth of Madness offers to serve the deserving Michael De Luca script with assured success. Surprisingly, however, John Carpenter’s direction leaves something to be desired for it treats the viewer to vastly too much effect, too much emphasis, in getting points across where subtlety would have satisfied the adage, “where less is more”. Obviously a script influenced by H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythology, none of the traditional Lovecraft devices to enhance the terror are explored (forgivable were others employed satisfactorily,) but both interpretation and direction presumes to count almost entirely on more original storyline twists badly bolstered by grossly redundant effects. Were this reviewer to have to see one more return to a painting forebodingly prescient in its supernatural reflection of the future of our mis-adventuring couple (John Trent and the lovely Julie Carmen) he might have to sail the DVD out a near-by window.
Still the storyline is very good and a little editing would make the movie so much better. And Mr. Carpenter, we know, has the ability to make good movies, even spectacular ones. While a Byzantine style church out in the country is a touch that certainly holds attention and creates its own air of apprehension, overdoing everything with inverted crosses and incessant wind storms, ghoul mobs with torches and the insane asylum bit…well three good movies could have been made out of the props, special effects and redundancies of this one.
It quite downplays the great theme of belief fostering manifestation and of syntax inducing trance. With the opening of plot through the investigation of an insurance claim involving the diappearance of a fiction novelist of the arcane whose work has begun to gather an occult following, the setting created is grand, on par with Lovecraft and even an H. H. Munro short story.
Relaxed a little we might have at least seen Mr. Trent kiss the alluring Ms. Carmen. But no, instead we endure a steady stream of foreboding props that eventually do nothing either for outcome or storyline cohesiveness. And the disclaimers of what viewers follow throughout being imagined….well, that has no point at all and is never satisfactorily explained.
But we do get to see Charlton Heston and that’s always a positive.
Not even a bare shoulder, suitable for older children if not precocious enough to be discriminating and for adults that like to take a lot of breaks and don’t know about the pause option.