Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 20: In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)
When was the last time a movie showed you something unexpected and left your jaw on the floor? I’m not talking about special effects-fueled surprises the Marvel and DC universes provide, but a storytelling surprise so undeniably crazy that you have to fight back the urge to squeal with joy over what is unfolding in front of your eyes?
I can count maybe three or four such occasions that I have been fortunate enough to experience, and the most recent one came as a result of a $5 Blu-ray I bought with no previous knowledge of the film contained within. The title was In The Mouth Of Madness, otherwise known as the third and final film of John Carpenter’s ‘Apocalypse Trilogy,’ and I’m honestly a bit surprised I was able to pull myself together enough to create this article.
In The Mouth Of Madness follows insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill), a man assigned to review a claim from a book publisher that best-selling author Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) has gone missing along with his yet-to-be-released manuscript. Cane is a horror auteur whose writing can best be likened to that of H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King, but Trent is not a reader of Cane’s work, or at least not until he begins his search.
After a series of clues leads Trent to New Hampshire, our protagonist unknowingly stumbles into the fictional town where Cane’s books take place. The people, places, and behavior described in the books actually turn out to be real—or at least it appears that way. In truth, something much more bizarre is happening, and Carpenter’s masterful third act reveal makes it clear that nothing is the way it seems.
There is a cheesiness to the story and effects found in the film, but Carpenter makes it work to his advantage. The absurdity of the plot lowers your expectations for the film’s latter half, and by doing so Carpenter is able to deliver big surprises that no doubt rattle some to their core.
Even as I write this I am in disbelief that more up-and-coming filmmakers have not tried to re-imagine this classic film. Few films have the ability to make you feel unhinged the way you do when watching In The Mouth Of Madness, but I would love to see more try.