31 Days of Horror 1: In The Mouth of Madness (1994) by Jamie

It’s the most wonderful time of year, the time when killers stalk, monsters hunt and ghosts haunt. When the deep, dark fears that dwell within the collective mind of mankind are given form and allowed to roam free on our movie screens. Yes, once more ‘tis the season of Halloween. To celebrate this year, I’ve decided to engage in an activity that I’ve seen a number of people indulging in, namely watching a horror film a day for each day of the month of October or should I say Spooktober! No, my legal team have informed me that I should not, in fact, say Spooktober. Ever.

Anyway, my criteria for this 31 Days of Horror thing is rather simple. Pick a horror film I haven’t seen, watch it and then review it. Of course, this can garner a mixed bag of results. Some movies can be so painfully middle of the road that they just kind of aren’t worth reviewing. Still, I shall soldier on regardless safe in the knowledge that there’s at least a new ‘Child’s Play’ film in my future. Anyway let’s begin with John Carpenter’s Lovecraftian tale ‘In The Mouth of Madness’.

One of my biggest regrets, other than not attempting to have sex with Scarlett Johansson that one time I was in the same room as her, is the fact that I have never read any of HP Lovecraft’s works. Every now and then I’ll get it in my head to but then I look at his bibliography and the arguments about a suitable reading order online and I eventually give up. Still I have absorbed at least a passing knowledge of the Lovecraftian mythos from the general pop-culture milieu and one day I will finally settle on where to start and actually indulge. Until then, I figured that maybe ‘In The Mouth of Madness’ might be a good place to look to satisfy that longing for eldritch abominations that I seem to harbour. Sadly, it kind of wasn’t.

Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the film, I did for the most part. I just think that perhaps the pacing was a little off. Hmmm, let me begin at the beginning. The film basically follows the recollections of John Trent, insurance fraud investigator, as he tells the story of how he came to end up in an insane asylum after attempting to find out what happened to horror author/Lovecraft surrogate Sutter Cane who has vanished just before his new book ‘In The Mouth of Madness’ is due to be released causing his rabid fans to partake in a bit of rioting.

The trail of clues that Trent uncovers leads him and Cane’s editor to a town that fans of the author’s books may be familiar with. Will Trent find Cane and his new manuscript and is there any truth to the rumours that Cane’s work can turn people mad?

Now like I say, for the most part I did enjoy this film. Sam Neil plays Trent and he can play a man unsure of whether or not his sanity is slipping away with the very best whilst still managing to maintain an air of scepticism in his portrayal. The film also isn’t short on classic Carpenter style with the film bringing ‘The Thing’ to mind on more than one occasion and even reminding me of a less comedic ‘They Live’ at times.

My main problem with the film is the pacing. It just doesn’t give enough time for the tension to build properly. It feels as though there’s an attempt to make the film feel like it’s about the slow, creeping rise of insanity and the realisation that reality may not be as real as you thought but the film moves too fast for that feeling of tension to ever really build and in the end, you can’t help but feel slightly disappointed because of that. Still, this is definitely one for Carpenter fans who may have overlooked it. Three pints out of five. Sorry that this review is a bit truncated but the idea for this came late and now I must sleep to be refreshed and ready for another spooktacular review tomorrow!… What’s that? Never use the word spooktacular either. Fine. Laterz.





2011 in Film: Number 1: Season of the Witch by Jamie

Spoilers ahead.

Starting a new little project on this blog and going to try and watch every film released in 2011 (at least as listed on Wikipedia) and as luck would have it, I must begin with a Nicolas Cage film. Now normally I like to do a video review of Cage’s films but I’m having some technical issues in that department so I have to resort to something barbaric like typing out the words with my fingers rather than speaking them with my mouth parts. Enough of my problems, on to the review!

The film opens during the crusades which were apparently fought by quipping Americans who may or may not be trying to do English-esque accents. I honestly can’t tell if Nicolas Cage is trying speak with an English accent and just failing or if it’s just the way his voice goes when he’s trying to speak in somewhat faux Olde English. Ron Perlman, on the other hand, doesn’t even seem to bother and honestly, his performance is more enjoyable because of it. Anyway, the two Crusadery chums are hacking their way through battles, killing for God and drinking with wenches and just generally having as good a time as two knights can. After a while though, they come to the realisation that they aren’t just killing deserving infidel warriors but also women and children too. They decide that enough is enough and leave the Crusades and go on the run as deserters.

So they find themselves wandering around medieval Europe. What are they doing? Well, that’s never really explained. Probably going from village to village and righting wrongs where they can. That’s the ind of shit that righteous outlaws are always doing from Robin Hood to The A-Team. Anyway, they come across a kingdom blighted by the plague where they are recognised and arrested. However they are given a holy quest by a plague-ridden Christopher Lee (in one of the more bizarre cameo appearances in film history). The quest is to deliver an alleged witch to a monastery where a rite will be performed that will remove the curse of the plague. Cage is reticent to sign up and work for the church again but ultimately relents in exchange for a guarantee that the accused witch will receive a fair trial and that he and Perlman are given full pardons.

They are accompanied on their quest by a priest, the unfortunately named Debelzaq, a swindler/merchant named Hagamar, another knight whose own land has been ravaged by the plague, causing him to lose his daughter, named Ulrich and a young aspiring knight Kay. They set off and, honestly, not much actually happens on the way. There’s a few deaths and few things which are possibly meant to make you wonder if the girl actually has supernatural powers or not whilst actually makes it pretty fucking obvious that she has supernatural powers. What happens could best be described as dude gets stabbed, there’s a rickety bridge on which no one dies, some demon wolves and then bam. They’re at the monastery.

There are bad things afoot at the monastery however! Apparently the plague has struck there too and it’s down to Debelzaq to try and perform the rite to sort out the witch. But bad things are afoot inside the girls body! It turns out that she’s not a witch at all but she is, in fact, possessed by bad CGI Satan! So any chance of this being in anyway interesting is almost immediately lost, any hint that maybe the girl wasn’t supernatural and was perhaps just crazy is instantly gone (though they would have had to explain a shit lot of the stuff that happened earlier if they had gone that route). What we’re left with is a final battle between our main cast and some poor special effects. Ugh.

So where exactly did this film go wrong? Well, there’s the cheap look which renders everything just a little unbelievable, the poor writing and somewhat stilted acting but the biggest problem is the constant shift in tone. This film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a buddy action comedy? A psychological thriller? A straight up supernatural horror? Don’t get me wrong, tonal shifts in movies can work but not when they seem to be happening every time there’s a scene change. It’s just comes off as jarring.

Was there anything good about the film? Well, this isn’t the worse that Cage has been and he isn’t exactly bad at playing the repentant, world-weary warrior but you can’t help but feel a little disappointed that Cage isn’t playing it a little crazier given the setting. Also Perlman’s entertaining but he’s taken being entertaining in cheesy bullshit and turned it into an art form.

At the end of the day those two points aren’t really enough to recommend the movie to anyone really. I will say that there are entertaining moments but they are very few and far between and most of them are quite near the beginning of the film. Overall I can’t in good conscience give this more than one pint out of five. Laterz.

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