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Sutter Cane, In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Look, if you offer me a movie that features the involvement of John Carpenter in some capacity I am already in. I’ve seen virtually all of his movies and of course I’ve seen In the Mouth of Madness and absolutely loved it. It feels strange to review a film I love, but you can love something and view it critically.

So, while I have a soft spot for In the Mouth of Madness it’s also not my favorite of Carpenter’s films. That’s okay. Even not-so-great Carpenter can be pretty great. With the exception of Ghosts of Mars (2001), of course.

You can currently stream In the Mouth of Madness on Shudder.

“Do you read Sutter Cane?”

Part of the appeal of the film is the Lovecraftian nature of it all. The film, written by Michael De Luca (The Lawnmower Man (short), Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare), borrows heavily from Lovecraft’s canon. Interestingly, though, Carpenter did not sign on to direct the film right away, only signing on after Tony Randel (Hellbound: Hellraiser II) dropped out. Carpenter taking on directorial duties makes a lot of sense given the Lovecraftian nature of The Thing (1981).

The film picked up the fantastic Sam Neill as a lead, just shortly after the release of Jurassic Park. Also rounding out the cast are Julie Carmen, Charlton Heston, David Warner, and Jürgen Prochnow as Sutter Cane. The film also has a young Hayden Christensen, before he murdered all those younglings.

The film, like several of Lovecraft’s own stories, is a framed flashback depicting one man’s encounters with unknown powers that drive humanity mad. In the Mouth of Madness follows John Trent, an insurance investigator, his hired to investigate the disappearance of mega-author Sutter Cane and tracking down his next manuscript. As these things go, Trent uncovers twisting and terrifying secrets about Cane and his work.

What Worked About In the Mouth of Madness?

I already have my Halloween costume for next year planned out.

Sam Neill’s John Trent is an unlikable dick of a protagonist and it totally works. He’s not a sympathetic figure despite his traumatic experiences. Much like Lovecraft’s own protagonists, he’s smug, insufferable, and ultimately doomed. Neill ultimately carries the film with sheer unlikability and to see him fall to inevitable madness is a joy.

The film, when Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) finally appears, really clicks. Ultimately this is not until a good portion of the way through the movie, meaning that the first 40 minutes or so feel a bit scattered. Prochnow’s Cane makes for a fun, albeit limited menace in the runtime and inspires some fun reveals. He doesn’t really figure into the film for the duration, however.

The film’s strength ultimately lies in an exploration of perception and the altering of reality. The exploration of this, however, is limited to the second half of the film. Some of the ways this is accomplished are fantastic, others slightly less.

Had the film not dabbled too much into setting up Hobb’s End, then perhaps there would have been more horrifying scenes of reality-warping. It is commendable that the film manages to evoke so much anxiety in the amount of time it explores these themes.

What Did Not Work About In the Mouth of Madness?

Children: Always creepy, not always relevant.

In The Mouth of Madness throws together a lot of ideas and repeated images, but ultimately many of these elements fail to add to a cohesive whole. What the film is showing is snippets of different Sutter Cane stories, but few of these images amount to much. The church, the children, the owner of the inn and her chained-up husband, and the paperboy. They’re all elements of Cane’s writing creating a reality but they just create strange, albeit effective images that just create strangeness for ultimately strangeness’ sake.

Granted, it’s a film directed by John Carpenter and all this strangeness is executed well, visually. There are some genuinely creepy sights and scenarios, for sure. But it just ultimately feels like a series of distractions. The film tries to establish the wide body of work of Sutter Cane becoming reality, but it comes up short. The film really doesn’t take off until Sutter Cane actually appears and begins affecting reality around John.

Final Verdict

As a fan who enjoys the film, the director, and the Lovecraftian themes I can still recognize there are some fairly substantial flaws with In the Mouth of Madness. Carpenter’s direction and sense of macabre are on-point, but the film feels too scattered and wanders too much.

This is a film where the last half is what you’ll end up enjoying most, especially given the absolutely stellar acting of Sam Neill.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Are you a fan of In the Mouth of Madness? Do you agree with this assessment? Let us know in the comments.

As always, please read our other reviews.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. E V

    March 20, 2020 at 2:51 am

    All I can say is I love In The Mouth of Madness in the way that I’ll always watch it when it pops up on tv, but a few months later, don’t ask for a plot synapsis.

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Breaking News

The Last Drive-In Valentine’s Day Special Live Watch Party February 10th!



The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In Valentine’s Day Special, premiering live at 9pm EST.

Love Spells Abound…

Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, we here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo. As is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the live broadcasting of The Last Drive-In Valentine’s Day Special. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us  @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder@therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.

Drawn image of Joe Bob Briggs pouring  a drop of pink liquid into a clear glass potion bottled filled with a glowing red substance. To his left lies a book a magic spells with a golden pentagram necklace resting on top. Also on the books rests a human skull with heart shaped pupils for eyes hiding behind a pair of clear glasses. In bold white letters a text reads "Join us on February 10th as we live tweet The Last Drive-In Valentine's Day Special".
Follow @hauntedMTL for live tweets and replies!

What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

Picture of Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, John Patrick Brennan and Yuki Nakamura standing together dressed in medieval costumes. A cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins stands between Darcy and Yuki. Darcy is seen drapped in a beautfiul elegant princess dress, satin white with gold trim. Yuki is seen holding a small wreath of purple, white, and yellow flowers that match his loud medieval king costume. Resting atop both their heads are golden crowns. Joe Bob Briggs is seen standing to the left of Darcy, as he smiles whilst wearing a half-put together jester costumer. Lastly, we see Brennan with two wooden recorders in his hand as he mimics playing them both dress clad in a bright yellow dress.
An unexpected ceremony during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You (2021) special.

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Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”



Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Dahmer, Silenced



Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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