I remember getting Netflix in about 2009-2010 and one of the first films I found on there was John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. I remember coming across the poster of Sam Neill looking out over the ripped book page, with only the title to go by. It intrigued me so much that I watched it immediately. Today, the film has aged superbly and I’m going to break down the 3 reasons why you need to watch In the Mouth of Madness during this Halloween season.
- Frightening Visuals
What makes this a key film for the Halloween season–for me personally–is the fact that it’s genuinely creepy. Right from the beginning of the film, we immediately get that sense of unease in the asylum. Throughout the film Carpenter presents us with plenty of nightmare fuel such as a kid seemingly bound to riding a bike forever, an ever-changing painting, a creepy group of kids and much more. Even re-watching this recently, the visuals still made my skin crawl. It’s important to note that the film is filled with jump scares, but they’re jump scares with a payoff–something missing from jump scare-focused films today. Another effective element to the visuals (and I hate to get all super Film School on y’all) is how Carpenter shoots the film. When we’re in the real world sequences, Carpenter plays around with a lot of deep focus. It genuinely sucks you into the film and makes the sets look incredible.
2. Genuinely Compelling Mystery
Books and literature play a huge part in this film, which is ironic because this film plays out like a great book–something I said recently about Don’t Breathe. Much like Don’t Breathe, this film is constantly unpredictable, you never know where the next scene is going to take you. From the outside, this sounds like a film that we’ve seen a thousand times, but when you sit down and watch it you find out just how enthralling the mystery is and just how wrapped up in it you get. Screenwriter Michael De Luca crafts a compelling narrative set in this bizarrrrrre town, playing out much like you’d assume John Carpenter’s Silent Hill would. It’s a film that constantly surprises you by how weird it gets, but it seems to always keep within the rules of the film world. It never breaks its own logic or anything, it’s a very well thought-out story that feels inspired by both the directing end and the writing end, both teaming to make a mystery that you can’t wait to see conclude.
3. Sam Neill
With the bizarre story and creepy visuals, our one link to reality is Sam Neill’s character. Neill pulls out all the stops to dive into this character, showing more range than I’ve ever seen from him. Whenever I see Sam Neill in something, I’m totally sucked in. The guy’s a great performer and this is easily the best performance of his that I’ve seen. As I said, he shows an incredible amount of range between cracking well-timed quips and acting completely crazy in the opening scene of the film. Although certain elements of the film are played up for laughs, in the opening scene you honestly buy into Neill’s fear. With his eyes alone, he’s able to convey an honest sense of fear and insanity. If there’s one thing that you need to buy into, it’s his motivations and choices. Neill without a doubt delivers on that.
I hope I’ve given you just enough about this film to catch your interest, but don’t study any further. The less you know about the film, the better. In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated horror movies ever. It has creepy imagery that still makes your skin crawl today, shockingly great writing, an interesting story, amazing visuals and a cast of great performances–namely Sam Neill in the lead role. As I’ve said before, I like to spread the word on underrated horror films during the Halloween season and if there’s one to watch–it’s this one.