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.





Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone by Jamie

There are certain movies out there that you can tell were written with a different actor in mind than the one they ended up with. Films like ‘Balls of Fury’ which stars Dan Fogler because they obviously couldn’t get Jack Black or ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ being written for the invention of time travel so a young Bruce Campbell could have been cast as the lead. ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ may not be one of these movies but it sure as hell feels like it is.

Burt Wonderstone really, really feels like a second rate Will Ferrell character to the point where at times it even sounds as though Steve Carell is doing a half-arsed Ron Burgundy impression. And when I say a second rate Will Ferrell character I really mean that. I’m talking ‘Semi-Pro’ levels of comedy here. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not great, is what I’m saying.

Unfortunately Steve Carell really is the problem here. Most of the other characters in the film provide small bright spots of comedy here and there but the film seems to go through long stretches following Burt Wonderstone and nobody else. This doesn’t really help with the Will Ferrell comparison because it’s so incredibly blatant in scenes when Burt is by himself, talking to a throwaway character or complaining on his phone about how small his bed is.

Like I say the other characters do bring some funny moments here and there but they’re used so sparingly that you just end up feeling disappointed. There’s Steve Buscemi as Burt’s partner Anton who has a pretty good subplot wherein he visits poor, staving people in the third world and rather than food or clean water delivers the gift of magic. Jim Carrey occupies the villain role as a magician in the style of Criss Angel and he steals every scene playing something akin to a douchier version of Ace Ventura with a masochistic streak but you can’t tell if it’s because he’s actually being really good or everything around him is so lacklustre. Alan Arkin is pretty enjoyable as Burt’s role model but again he gets so little actual screen time that it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Oh, and Olivia Wilde is there because Steve Carell’s character needs a woman twenty years younger than him as a romantic interest. Otherwise how would I know he’s successful?

Hell, honestly I could maybe even forgive a middling comedy if there were anything original about it but sadly there isn’t much here we haven’t seen before. It’s the story of someone famous for doing something but soon finds himself being replaced by someone younger and edgier coming along. He finds himself at the lowest he can possibly get until he decides to try one last time to pull himself out of the gutter and beat his rival. Will he succeed? Have you ever seen a movie before? So yeah it’s that plot and this time it’s with magicians.

Even the jokes are old, things we’ve seen a dozen times before. For example there is one scene where Burt and a groupie walk into a room with the promise of sexual acts about to take place. From outside the room we hear the groupie exclaim “It’s huge!” Cut to inside the bedroom and it reveals that she’s talking about the bed (Apparently it can sleep two dozen adults). Oh the hilarity!

I will give it a little credit as early on it shows Burt talking to the owner of a casino and being old he will only hire Burt if he drops Anton from the act. I thought ‘Oh great, it’s gonna be a film about two partner’s who separate because one gets greedy but then they realise they need each other and come back together.’ However Burt refuses and the casino owner relents and hires them both. ‘Oh,’ I thought ‘The film knew that’s what I was gonna think this was and cleverly fooled me. Maybe this will be something original after all! Great!’ and then it basically threw that in as a subplot later anyway. So yeah, thanks for tricking me movie.

Overall the movie is really just a meh. If you find yourself considering watching this I recommend watching a good Will Ferrell movie instead. You’ll be glad you did. One and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

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