From the Devil's Advocates series. Written by Michael Blyth.

RRP: £9.99 108pp

Out now from Auteur Publishing.


Released in 1995, In the Mouth of Madness is arguably John Carpenter’s last great film. The three films he has directed since then, Vampires, Ghosts of Mars and, what is increasingly looking like his swansong, The Ward contain only faint traces of what made the rest of his body of work so striking and singular.


It can also be argued that In the Mouth of Madness, or ITMOM to keep it brief, is his most underrated film. To an extent a fair share of Carpenter’s filmography has been undervalued only to be revalued as the years roll on, The Thing being the most notable example. Weirdly ITMOM still seems to be waiting for its critical re-appraisal since its 1995 release. A fact that author Michael Blyth examines in this entry of Devil’s Advocates in depth volumes on horror cinema.


Blyth examines the critical reception the film received on release, neatly placing it not only with how the rest of Carpenter’s body of work was received but in the larger context of how American horror cinema was regularly looked down upon by film critics who had no appreciation for neither genre or director. This leads into a detailed examination of Carpenter’s film was a clever meta-textual commentary on the genre itself, easily convincing the reader that the film was ahead of its time in an impressive number of ways.


Genre savvy viewers coming to the film for the first time could easily spot that ITMOM is a love letter to all things Lovecraft, from its storyline of unwitting investigator confronting unspeakable, and often indescribable evils, to its themes of cosmic nihilism, or as Blyth clearly and neatly explains it “cosmicism.” However, added to this is extra layers of critiques and commentary on subjects as diverse as mass corporations mass consumerism, carried over from They Live, of the genre and further examinations of free will and existentialism. The author convincingly presents the case for ITMOM as not only Carpenter’s most underrated film but his most ambitious. “Existential dread for the MTV generation” is but one quote that can be pulled from the pages here to give a succinct description of the film. By the end of the book however you can see how it could also be described as an underrated, multi-level, forward thinking, existential horror film.


Blyth explains all of this in a clear and concise manner, revealing the dense nature of the film that marks it out as quite singular in Carpenter’s oeuvre. He often places it within the larger context of pop culture by comparing it to other properties as diverse as Harry Potter and Twilight. One need only look at the films vision of Sutter Cane’s fans running amok in bookstores eager to devour his latest work to fans of J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer nearly doing the same when queuing for the latest instalments of those respective franchises at the height of their fame to see that it is not that far-fetched of a comparison.


Stephen King is also mentioned more than once and it is here that the book slightly loses it footing. The point of comparing Sutter Cane and King is made more than a few too many times and not really all that convincingly. This is easily forgiven though in a volume as slim as this one is. For academics specializing in the genre, Carpenter and Lovecraft this is a highly recommended volume. It excels in revealing aspects of the film that may not be apparent on a casual viewing but makes one eager to revisit the film again with the knowledge gained from here. Hopefully this signals the long overdue re-appraisal of Carpenter’s “most faithful Lovecraft adaptation there ever, or never was.”


Iain MacLeod







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This web site is owned and published by London FrightFest Limited.

FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.
 © 2000 - 2018