Insurance investigator John Trent is hired to track down best-selling horror author Sutter Cane, who has disappeared while still owing his publisher the manuscript of his latest book. Determined to find the missing manuscript, Trent looks for clues in the author’s previous work, which leads him to a village that he thought existed only in Cane’s stories. As he enters the place, fiction overtakes reality in eerie ways.
“Every species can smell its own extinction. The last ones left won't have a pretty time of it. And in ten years, maybe less, the human race will just be a bedtime story for their children; A myth, nothing more.”
John Trent in In the Mouth of Madness
“[Trent] doesn’t believe in this horror crap, and he doesn’t believe that a horror writer can become God, and suddenly he finds himself caught in this horror writer’s world, realizes it’s true and goes crazed mad from it. So it says both that horror is a kind of cheesy on one level but at the same time, if you’re tracking it, you can become crazy. That’s in the premise and I just pulled every bit of that idea out as much as I could.”
“Carpenter's brand of screen horror is not particularly deep and meaningful – whatever that means. However, its surface is very intricately worked out. Carpenter is always playing on what you can see but can't exactly make out; what you can hear but not immediately locate. He is a master at using patches of starkly contrasted light and dark in the frame, and he turns every plot into a frightening drama of space – people in enclosed spaces trying to make their way out of one room, down a corridor, into an attic or cellar. The trouble for the characters is that these spaces and places are often mutating as much as their own bodies and psyches.”
“The film is at once a stomach-churning Lovecraftian horror about the nature of reality itself and a self-referential commentary on fiction, authorship, and audience expectations: has Sutter Cane created the violent chaos engulfing the world, or were his fans infected by his ideas? By the time the end of the world finally comes in the film’s last moments, Trent is in a movie theater, alone, straight-jacketed, laughing his head off watching his own story. We should all die so happily.”
- 1. Gilles Boulenger, John Carpenter: The Prince of Darkness, (L.A.: Silman-James Press, 2003).
- 2. Adrian Martin, "In the Mouth of Madness," 1995.
- 3. Dana Reinoos, "Notebook Primer: John Carpenter," October 2021.