Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jurgen Prochnow, David Warner, John Glover, Bernie Casey, Peter Jason, Charlton Heston, Frances Bay, Wilhelm von Homburg
Written by: Michael De Luca
Directed by: John Carpenter
MPAA Rating: R for images of horror, and for language
Running Time: 95
Date: 02/02/1995

In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Black Book

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Horror films are no longer what they used to be, but John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness is a real, honest-to-goodness horror film, not a gore film or a goofy comedy. (It has a little gore, but the true emphasis is on being scared.) I watched In the Mouth of Madness late at night, with the lights off and alone, and it was kinda scary and I had a great time.

Interestingly, the film focuses on horror novels; even as horror films are faltering, novels such as Stephen King's and Clive Barker's are still strong sellers. The story concerns an insurance inspector, John Trent (Sam Neill), who is hired by a publisher (Charlton Heston, in all his campy glory) to find Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow), the world's most popular horror novelist, and his newest manuscript, which has already been pre-sold. Trent finds himself in a fictional town called Hobb's End, which Cane has created. Eventually, reality begins slipping away from him, and I wasn't able to tell where the movie was going to end up.

Carpenter uses some special effects and some simple tricks to scare us, but what he does best of all is create a nightmare world of the subconscious, where there are no rules and anything can happen. The laserdisc is the best way to see this movie. It's filmed in 1:2.35 Widescreen, and the disc is nicely letterboxed. It also has high tech dolby digital sound and a smattering of different trailers and a documentary, as well as commentary by Carpenter on a separate audio track.

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