In The Mouth Of Madness
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted February 1, 2000
E - M A I L
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In Short: Fine work from New Line, with an informative commentary track.

The Movie:

"In The Mouth Of Madness" is one of those films where it has the idea completely in place, has its share of good dialogue and decent performances, but for some reason, it never quite goes from the level of good to great. The movie revolves around a horror film writter named Sutter Cane, who has practically vanished right before his latest release, which has been greeted with mob scenes of people who are crazy to get a copy. Some believe that the book is driving people mad. An investigator named John Trent(Sam Neill) is brought in to find the writer, and his journey (accompanied by his editor) leads him to the town of Hobb's End, where elements from the writer's novel begin to become reality.

The film does not go over the top into major gore, although there is some violence. The film is trying to be a more thoughtful work of horror, and I can certainly appreciate that. There are times though, when the fiction or reality line becomes a little blurry. There are also some times though where the film falls back on the usual horror shocks of creatures jumping out or scary noises. While some of the ideas in the script (by New Line head Michael De Luca) are interesting looks at the question of reality, the dialogue doesn't always do the ideas justice.

Performances vary. Neill shows (as he did with 1997's "Event Horizon") that he can do horror films fairly well, but some of the performances such as the actress who plays the editor aren't very interesting. It's been a while since I saw this movie last (I originally saw it during its theatrical release in 1995), but I still that it's a movie with some positive elements that just don't quite work together.


Whether a new blockbuster or a catalog title, New Line consistently does wonderful work with almost every DVD release that they have brought out. "In The Mouth Of Madness" is consistent with all of their work. Images are clear and crisp throughout, even in the dimly lit shots(of which there are plenty in this picture). Even in the shadows, there is still a very good amount of detail. It's not a very colorful movie in general (this isn't a bright, happy horror movie), but there are no problems with the color on this transfer. Black level is consistently excellent as well.

There are no problems with the image quality at all in this release. New Line has always done excellent work, but they are still improving each time out in quality. No shimmering or pixelation on this disc, and even the print is free of distracting scratches. "In The Mouth Of Madness" is anamorphic and presented letterboxed at 2.35:1. There is also a pan/scan version and both can be chosen from the menu.

SOUND: This is definitely a very cool sound mix. Although the begining of the film doesn't offer too much, when it finally gets going, it's very impressive. The soundtrack as a whole sounds very strong, with very strong bass at times. Consistently, there are a number of creepy sound effects, along with the ominous score. During some of the more intense sequences though, the surrounds really make themselves known with some wonderfully scary noises. When the audio comes roaring to life, it's a highly effective sound mix. Dialogue is fine, clear and not compressed or thin sounding.

MENUS:: Although animated menus certainly would have been effective in introducing us to a film like this, the non-animated menus that New Line has put together are still effective and easily navigated.

Commentary: This is a commentary track with director John Carpenter and cinematographer Gary Kibbe, which was also included on the original laserdisc release of the film. The commentary itself is almost completely technical in nature, dealing with things like lighting and camerawork. There are also some details about the story and production, but for the most part, Carpenter talks mainly about how scenes were filmed.

Carpenter does most of the talking on this track and is easily the more interesting of the two. Kibbe talks mainly when Carpenter asks him about his work on a particular sequence. Carpenter is helpful in keeping the discussion organized and interesting, and helps to clarify some of the details about lighting and other technical terms.

This is probably one of the most technical talks I've ever heard on DVD, and as someone who is very fascinated by the process of filmmaking, I learned quite a lot about lighting and camerawork. Kibbe goes over what kind of light was used in each scene and although he's not a very energetic person, I found his comments informative.

If you are looking for a talk about the story and the horror genre in general, you may not care for this commentary and might find it a little slow. If you're interested in the process of filmmaking or especially if you're a film student, you will definitely find it informative and enjoyable.

Also Trailer and cast/crew bios.

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