In the Mouth of Madness

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In the Mouth of Madness
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Carpenter
Produced by Sandy King
Written by Michael De Luca
Starring Sam Neill
Julie Carmen
Jürgen Prochnow
Music by John Carpenter
Jim Lang
Cinematography Gary B. Kibbe
Edited by Edward A. Warschilka
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • February 3, 1995 (1995-02-03)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[1]
Box office $8.9 million (domestic)[1]

In the Mouth of Madness (also known as John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness) is a 1995 American Lovecraftian horror film directed and scored by John Carpenter and written by Michael De Luca. It stars Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner and Charlton Heston. Informally, the film is the third installment in what Carpenter calls his Apocalypse Trilogy, preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness.


Dr. Wrenn (David Warner) visits John Trent (Sam Neill), a patient in a psychiatric hospital, and asks Trent to recount his story:

After exposing an arson-fraud scam, Trent, an insurance investigator, has lunch with a colleague who preps him on his next assignment, investigating a claim made by New York-based Arcane Publishing. During their conversation, Trent is attacked by a man wielding an axe who, after asking him if he reads Sutter Cane, is shot dead by a police officer before he can harm Trent.

Trent later meets with Arcane Publishing director Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) who tasks him with investigating the disappearance of popular horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow), and recovering the manuscript for Cane's final novel. He assigns Cane's editor, Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), to accompany him.

Linda explains the stories are known to cause disorientation, memory loss, and paranoia in "less stable readers." Trent remains skeptical, convinced that the disappearance is merely an elaborate publicity stunt. Trent notices a series of red lines on Cane's book's covers that, when aligned properly, form the outline of New Hampshire and mark a location alluded to be Hobb's End, the fictional setting for many of Cane's works.

As they set out to find the town, Linda experiences bizarre phenomena during the late-night drive, inexplicably arriving at Hobb's End in daylight. Trent and Linda search the small town and begin encountering people and landmarks described as fictional in Cane's novels. Trent believes it all to be staged, but Linda disagrees. She admits to Trent that Arcane Publishing's claim was indeed a fraudulent stunt to promote Cane's book, but the time distortion and exact replica of Hobb's End were never part of the plan.

Linda heads to a church to confront Cane, who exposes her to his final novel, In The Mouth of Madness, which drives her insane, embracing and kissing Cane passionately. A man approaches Trent in a bar and warns him to leave, then commits suicide. Outside the bar, a mob of monstrous-looking townspeople descend upon him. Trent attempts to drive away from Hobb's End but is repeatedly teleported back to the center of town. After crashing his car, Trent awakens inside the church with Linda, where Cane explains that the public's belief in his stories have freed an ancient race of monstrous beings that will reclaim the Earth. Cane reveals that Trent himself is merely one of his characters who must follow Cane's plot and return the manuscript of In The Mouth of Madness to Arcane Publishing, ushering the end of humanity.

After giving Trent the manuscript, Cane tears his face open, creating a portal to the dimension of Cane's monstrous masters. Trent and Linda flee down a long tunnel as monsters chase them; Linda offers to stay behind, to delay the unseen monsters and because she has already read the entire book. Trent continues running and suddenly finds himself lying on a country road, apparently back in reality. During his return to New York, Trent destroys the manuscript. Back at Arcane Publishing, Trent relates his experience to Harglow. Harglow claims complete ignorance of Linda; Trent was sent alone to find Cane, and the manuscript had already been delivered months previously. In The Mouth of Madness has been on sale for weeks with a film adaptation in post production. Trent is arrested after he murders a reader of the newly released novel, who has altered eyes and a nosebleed; Trent asks if he is enjoying the book, and when the dazed reader nods, Trent tells him he should not be surprised before swinging the axe.

After Trent finishes telling his story, Dr. Wrenn judges it a meaningless hallucination. Trent wakes the following day to find the asylum abandoned. He departs as a radio announces that the world has been overrun with monstrous creatures, and that outbreaks of suicide and mass murder are commonplace. Trent goes to see the In the Mouth of Madness film and discovers that he is the main character in the film. As he watches his previous actions play out on screen, including a scene where he insisted to Linda "This is reality!", Trent begins laughing hysterically before breaking down crying.



Michael De Luca wrote the script in the late 1980s and one of the first directors he offered it to was John Carpenter,[2] who initially passed on the project. New Line Cinema later announced production in 1989 with director Tony Randel attached to direct.[2] Later Mary Lambert was also attached to direct.[2] A few years later, Carpenter signed on as director in December 1992 and filming took place from August to October 1993.[2]

The exterior of the Black Church seen in Hobb's End is actually the Cathedral of the Transfiguration. It is a Slovak Byzantine Rite Roman Catholic former cathedral located in Markham, Ontario.[3]


The film 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 Lovecraft's novella, 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. Reference is made to the Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos, and to Lovecraftian settings and details (such as a character that shares the name of Lovecraft's Pickman family). As read on-screen, Sutter Cane's writings even incorporate direct passages from his work.[4] Sutter Cane's novels have similar titles to H.P. Lovecraft stories : The Whisperer of the Dark (The Whisperer in Darkness), The Thing in the Basement (Thing on the Doorstep), Haunter out of Time (The Haunter of the Dark/The Shadow Out of Time), etc.

The film can also be seen as a reference to Stephen King, who, like Lovecraft, writes horror fiction set in New England hamlets.[5][6] King is mentioned towards the beginning of the movie; it is suggested that Cane's work is more frightening than King's and that he outsells King.

Release and reception

In the Mouth of Madness was released in December 1994 in Italy, and February 3, 1995 in the U.S. In the U.S., it grossed $3,441,807 in its first weekend, and $8,946,600 total during its run.[1] It was a financial disappointment, but it did earn enough to cover the film's budget.

The film received mixed critical reaction, with 14 positive reviews out of 29 tallied by Rotten Tomatoes for a score of 48%.[7] It was ranked the 10th best film of 1995 by Cahiers du cinéma.[8]

In their book Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft, Andrew Migliore and John Strysik write: "No film reviewed in this book is so strongly divisive as In the Mouth of Madness. This is a film people either love or hate – there seems to be no in-between. The film's weakness is the generic rock soundtrack composed and performed by director John Carpenter, and the disjointed script that apparently left the actors as confused as the plot. The film's strength is its Lovecraftian themes and the concept that the writer, Sutter Cane, is changing reality through his writings."[9]

A Blu-ray Disc of the film by New Line Cinema was released on October 15, 2013.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "In the Mouth of Madness (1995) – Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2010-01-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Wilson, William S. (2015-02-03). "Newsploitation: In the Mouth of Box Office Sadness". Video Junkie. Retrieved 2015-02-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "In the Mouth of Madness production still". Retrieved 2010-08-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. One of Sutter Cane's quotes is pulled directly from Lovecraft's work. Compare Lovecraft's original: "I did not shriek, but all the fiendish ghouls that ride the nightwind shrieked for me as in that same second there crashed down upon my mind a single and fleeting avalanche of soul-annihilating memory." (HP Lovecraft The Outsider). And Sutter Cane's: "Trent's eyes refused to close, he did not shriek, but the hideous unholy abominations shrieked for him, as in the same second he saw them spill and tumble upwards out of an enormous carrion black pit, choked with the gleaming white bones of countless unhallowed centuries." 'Stygian' and 'Carrion black pit' are phrases that recur repeatedly in Lovecraft stories.[original research?]
  5. Chris Hicks (1995-02-07). "Deseret News: In the Mouth of Madness Review". Deseret News. Retrieved 2010-01-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Frazer, Bryant. In the Mouth of Madness
  7. "In the Mouth of Madness Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-01-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Cahiers du Cinema/ Top Ten Lists 1951-2009 -> 1995. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  9. Andrew Migliore & John Strysik, Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft, Night Shade Books, February 1, 2006, ISBN 978-1892389350
  10. "High-Def Disc News → 'In the Mouth of Madness' Dated for Blu-ray". High-Def Digest. 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links