IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1995) Reviews and overview

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‘Reality isn’t what it used to be’

In the Mouth of Madness is a 1995 American Lovecraftian horror feature film directed by John Carpenter (The Thing; The FogHalloween; et al) from a screenplay written by Michael De Luca, who was at the time of the film’s release in charge of New Line Cinema.

The soundtrack score was composed by John Carpenter and Jim Lang.


The movie stars Sam Neill (Possession, Event Horizon), Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner (The Omen), Charlton Heston (The Ωmega Man) and Bernie Casey (Gargoyles).

Buy Blu-ray:

On July 24, 2018, Scream Factory released In the Mouth of Madness as a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release with a new HD transfer. Joel Robinson designed the new cover art above.

  • New 4K scan of the original film elements
  • New Audio Commentary with director John Carpenter and producer Sandy King Carpenter
  • New Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – a look at the film’s locations today
  • New The Whisperer of the Dark – an interview with actress Julie Carman
  • New Greg Nicotero’s Things in the Basement – a new interview with special effects artist Greg Nicotero including behind-the-scenes footage
  • New Home Movies from Hobb’s End – Behind the Scenes footage from Greg Nicotero
  • Audio Commentary with director John Carpenter and cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe
  • Vintage Featurette – The Making of In the Mouth of Madness
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots


Hired to help locate missing author Sutter Cane, investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) and Cane’s female editor (Julie Carmen) travel to New England, discovering a town filled with terrifying scenes right out of Cane’s books (which include The Hobb’s End Horror, a reference to Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit), from random axe murders to far worse. Have Cane’s fans gone psychotic and begun imitating his writings, or are Cane’s stories of an otherworldly evil invading the earth actually true?


The film is the third instalment in what Carpenter calls his Apocalypse Trilogy, preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness.

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In the Mouth of Madness pays tribute to the work of seminal horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, with many references to his stories and themes. Its title is a play on two of Lovecraft’s tales, The Shadow Over Innsmouth and At the Mountains of Madness, and insanity plays as great a role in the film as it does in Lovecraft’s fiction.

The opening scene depicts Trent’s confinement to an asylum with the bulk of the story told in flashback, a common technique of Lovecraft’s. Quick reference is made to the Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as to Lovecraftian settings and characters (such as Mrs Pickman).

As read on-screen, Sutter Cane’s writings even incorporate direct passages from his work. All of Sutter Cane’s novels have similar titles to H.P. Lovecraft’s books (e.g., The Hobb’s End Horror in reference to The Dunwich Horror).

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The film can also be seen as a reference to Stephen King, who, like Lovecraft, also writes horror fiction set in New England hamlets. King is even mentioned towards the beginning of the movie; it is suggested that Cane’s work is more frightening than King’s and that he outsells him.

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“The screenplay by Michael De Luca is rife with clever touches and ideas, and Carpenter’s sensibly solid approach to the material gives it a certain matter-of-factness that melds surprisingly well with the surrealistic imagery. Though often criticized for being a film that starts off well but loses steam at the end, I’d say it’s one of the director’s most successfully realized projects.” Eccentric Cinema

“The story for this one is heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft but Carpenter is able to spin most of these tales into his own. They work very well resulting in a film with solid pacing and scenes that are truly terrifying. Finally, this is not a gory film. There is blood but the bloody stuff is done mostly off camera. With that being said, it has some phenomenal practical effects and creature designs.” Horror Society

“KNB provide some fun creature FX, though the subtler scares are the most effective and the shifting layers of reality incorporate nods to the greatest 20th century horror writers from Lovecraft and Arthur Machen through to Nigel Kneale and Stephen King.” Horrorscreams Videovault

“In trying to be inventive and unique, the story occasionally manages instead to annoy and confuse. There’s too much of the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream and other similar stuff going on. A little of this might have created a nice sense of ambiguity, but Carpenter overdoes it.” Reel Views


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Cast and characters:

Sam Neill … John Trent
Julie Carmen … Linda Styles
Jürgen Prochnow … Sutter Cane
David Warner … Doctor Wrenn
John Glover … Saperstein
Bernie Casey … Robinson
Peter Jason … Mr Paul
Charlton Heston … Jackson Harglow
Frances Bay … Mrs Pickman
Wilhelm von Homburg … Simon
Kevin Rushton … Guard #1
Gene Mack … Guard #2
Conrad Bergschneider … Axe Maniac
Marvin Scott … Reporter
Katherine Ashby … Receptionist
Ben Gilbert … Young Teen
Dennis O’Connor … Cop
Paul Brogren … Scrawny Teen
Sharon Dyer … Homeless Lady


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