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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » In the Mouth of Madness (Blu-ray)
In the Mouth of Madness (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // July 24, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $34.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted July 31, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

John Carpenter's 1995 picture In The Mouth Of Madness opens with a scene where we see an insurance investigator named John Trent (Sam Neil) locked away in a padded cell inside a mental hospital under the care of Dr. Saperstein (John Glover). John fights this every step of the way but eventually concedes defeat, after which he's interviewed by Dr. Wrenn (David Warner). During this interview, we learn what happened to Trent and how he wound up in this predicament.

And so we flashback to when Trent interviewed Paul (Peter Jason), a man suspected of committing insurance fraud and then after that, dinner with his boss, Mr. Robinson (Bernie Casey). During dinner, Robinson talks Trent into taking on a rather unorthodox case on behalf of one of their clients, Arcane Publishing, led by Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) and top editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen). They've come to Robinson and by default, Trent, because their hot shot horror writer Sutter Cane has vanished and taken with him his latest manuscript, one that they were set to publish. Cane's so popular that there's clearly a lot of money at stake here. This ties into a recent event that took place shortly before the meeting wherein Trent was attacked by a man wielding an axe attacked him, asking the question ‘Do you read Sutter Cane?' before the cops managed to shoot him dead. That man turns out to have been Cane's manager, one of only a few people to have read the author's latest tome.

Not convinced that this isn't just an elaborate publicity stunt, Trent takes the case, eventually putting together a series of clues and then teaming up with Styles to track Cane down. When they eventually find Cane (Jürgen Prochnow), he's hiding out in a strange church and, well… things just get weirder from here on out.

In The Mouth Of Madness is a pretty strong effort from Carpenter, thought it never quite matches the quality of his best work like Halloween or The Thing in terms of creating gripping suspense. Clearly inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the script meanders a bit here and there but it starts and finishes quite strongly and it does offer the movie more than a couple of genuinely effective, and unsettling, set pieces and in doing so, presents an interesting way in which Cane's writing begins to seemingly twist the reality that Trent and everyone else exists in. It's a twisting, turning bit of filmmaking that also features some impressive effects work courtesy of KNB Effects that do an admirable job of bringing some of the more grotesque moments of the film to vivid life.

Shot wide the way the best-looking Carpenter films are, the cinematography in In The Mouth Of Madness is also top notch. There are some seriously impressive compositions on display here, from scenic widescreen shots that draw us into the small town where Trent and Styles wind up to haunting closeups of certain characters that get pulled deeper into whatever it is that is happening here (no spoilers!). The score, courtesy of Carpenter and John Lang, isn't always perfect but it generally tends to suit the story well enough.

A big part of what makes the movie as entertaining as it is, however, is the cast. Sam Neill is fantastic in the lead and hands down the best part of the movie. Trent tries to keep a level head throughout, he's very suspicious about all of this but more than a little hesitant to acknowledge any supernatural goings-on. He plays this part well, a little surly and a little bit of a tough guy, but you'd have to be in that line of work. Julie Carmen is decent enough as his sidekick while Bernie Casey and Charlton Heston are both a lot of fun in their respective supporting parts.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

In The Mouth Of Madness comes to Blu-ray from Shout! Factory properly framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 50GB disc taken from a new 4k scan of ‘original film elements.' Really, there's nothing to complain about here. This is an excellent looking transfer that boasts beautiful color reproduction and very strong detail throughout. Depth and texture are both very impressive and the disc retains a very organic, filmic look sporting enough film grain to look ‘right' without looking too gritty. There's virtually no print damage here at all, the picture is very clean, while skin tones look nice and natural as well. The transfer appears free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement and there are no noticeable compression artifacts to note. It's hard to imagine the movie looking much better than it does here.

Sound:

The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also excellent. There's good channel separation throughout and some strong rear channel activity to take notice of during the picture's more aggressive and active moments. Dialogue stays clean and clear, never tough to understand or follow, while the score has good range and presence to it. Sound effects have just the right amount of punch behind them in that they hit hard when they need to but don't bury the performers. The track is free of any audible hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

Extras:

Extras start off with an all new audio commentary with director John Carpenter and producer Sandy King Carpenter. It's a solid track, quite active, with the pair discussing the origins of the project and providing their thoughts on what works and, sometimes, what doesn't. There's talk here of Nicotero's effects work, the different performers that were used for the shoot and the influence of H.P. Lovecraft's work on the film. They also cover how Carpenter came on board to direct this project, his thoughts on the script, the locations used for the shoot and quite a bit more. Carried over from past releases is the original audio commentary featuring Carpenter and cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe. This one is a bit more technical and not as anecdotal but it's still got a lot of good information in it as they discuss certain shot setups, lighting and camerawork and lots more.

From there, dig into the first of the four new featurettes included on this disc in the form of a twelve-minute episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds. Those familiar with the series know what to expect here, a detailed look at the locations used for the shoot as they appear in the film compared with how they look now in the modern day. These episodes are always well done and quite interesting, this installment is no exception. The Whisperer Of The Dark is up next, it's a new ten-minute interview with actress Julie Carman. She speaks about how she came to get the part, her thoughts on the project, working with Carpenter and some of the co-stars she acted alongside. Greg Nicotero's Things In The Basement is, as you'd probably have guessed on your own, an interview with special effects artist Greg Nicotero that clocks in at seventeen-minutes. Not only does he talk about some of the challenges encountered while working on this set and what it was like collaborating with Carpenter, but he also shares some interesting behind-the-scenes footage that he shot on set during the making of the film. The fourth and final new featurette is Home Movies From Hobb's End which is a separate collection of behind-the-scenes footage shot on set by Greg Nicotero.

Shout! Factory has also carried over the five-minute vintage making of featurette and the film's theatrical trailer. Rounding out the extras are a few television spots, menus and chapter selection options. As to the packaging, this collector's edition release includes some nice reversible cover art as well as a slipcover.

Final Thoughts:

In The Mouth Of Madness is very solid later-era Carpenter, not quite on par with his more established classics but still very much worth watching and an effective horror picture in its own right. Shout! Factory has an excellent job reissuing the film on Blu-ray, presenting it in a gorgeous presentation on a disc fairly stacked with extras new and old. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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