The ‘what if’ of In the Mouth of Madness posits that a famous spinner of horror novels can incite the populace to strange and hideous acts through his prose. It’s a nifty idea, and director John Carpenter keeps the story moving a step ahead of the preposterous, almost to the bitter end.
Crack insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) has lapsed into dementia as the curtain rises. He relates the wild tale that brought him to the padded cell.
Trent’s seemingly insane explanation is that the work of bestselling author Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow) is the key to the bloody phenomenon. He stumbled onto the truth when the author’s publisher (Charlton Heston) hired him to locate his missing meal ticket. Enlisting the help of editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), Trent goes in search of Hobb’s End, the fictional setting of the errant scribe’s tales of the macabre. When they stumble onto the tiny New England hamlet, they know the terror that lies ahead because it’s been foretold between the covers of popular past works.
Script is both homage to and parody of the Stephen King oeuvre. While the pic doesn’t really have meaty characters, the presence of Neill, Carmen, Heston and Prochnow lends an air of credibility that heightens the proceedings. The film is also blessed with an arsenal of special effects that work with tinker-toy precision.