In the Mouth of Madness

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In the Mouth of Madness
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Carpenter
Produced bySandy King
Written byMichael De Luca
Music byJohn Carpenter
Jim Lang
CinematographyGary B. Kibbe
Edited byEdward A. Warschilka
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • December 10, 1994 (1994-12-10) (Italy)
  • February 3, 1995 (1995-02-03) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million[1]
Box office$8.9 million (domestic)[1]

In the Mouth of Madness is a 1994 American horror film directed and scored by John Carpenter and written by Michael De Luca. It stars Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner and Charlton Heston. Informally, the film is the third installment in Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy, preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness.[2]


In the midst of an unspecified disaster, Dr. Wrenn (David Warner) visits John Trent (Sam Neill), a patient in a psychiatric hospital, and Trent recounts his story:

Trent, a freelance insurance investigator, has lunch with a colleague, an owner of an insurance company, who asks Trent to work on his largest insured: investigating a claim by New York-based Arcane Publishing. Suddenly, Trent is attacked by a man wielding an axe who, after asking him if he reads Sutter Cane, is shot dead by a police officer. The man was Cane's agent, who went insane and killed his family after reading one of Cane's books.

Trent meets with Arcane Publishing director Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston), who tasks him with investigating the disappearance of popular horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow), and recovering the manuscript for Cane's final novel. He assigns Cane's editor, Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), to accompany him. Linda explains that Cane's stories have been known to cause disorientation, memory loss and paranoia in "less stable readers". Trent is skeptical, convinced that the disappearance is a publicity stunt. He notices red lines on Cane's book covers which, when aligned properly, form the outline of New Hampshire and mark a location alluded to be Hobb's End, the fictional setting for many of Cane's works.

They set out to find the town. Linda experiences bizarre phenomena during the late-night drive, and they inexplicably arrive at Hobb's End in daylight. They search the small town, encountering people and landmarks described as fictional in Cane's novels. Trent believes it all to be staged, but Linda disagrees. She admits that Arcane Publishing's claim was a stunt to promote Cane's book, but the time distortion and exact replica of Hobb's End were not part of the plan.

Linda enters a church to confront Cane, who exposes her to his final novel, In the Mouth of Madness, which drives her insane; she begins embracing and kissing Cane passionately. A man (Wilhelm von Homburg) approaches Trent in a bar and warns him to leave, then commits suicide. Outside the bar, a mob of monstrous-looking townspeople descend upon him. Trent drives away from Hobb's End, but is repeatedly teleported back to the center of town. After crashing his car, he awakens inside the church with Linda, where Cane explains that the public's belief in his stories freed an ancient race of monstrous beings which will reclaim the Earth. Cane reveals that Trent is merely one of his characters, who must follow Cane's plot and return the manuscript of In The Mouth of Madness to Arcane Publishing, furthering the end of humanity.

After giving Trent the manuscript, Cane tears his face open, creating a portal to the dimension of Cane's monstrous masters. Trent sees a long tunnel that Cane said would take him back to his world, and urges Linda to come with him. She tells him she can't because she has already read the entire book. Trent races down the hall with Cane's monsters on his heels. He trips and falls, then suddenly finds himself lying on a country road, apparently back in reality. During his return to New York, Trent destroys the manuscript. Back at Arcane Publishing, he relates his experience to Harglow. Harglow claims ignorance of Linda; Trent was sent alone to find Cane, and the manuscript was delivered months earlier. In the Mouth of Madness has been on sale for weeks, with a film adaptation in post production. Trent encounters a reader of the newly-released novel, who is bleeding from his altered eyes. Trent asks if he is enjoying the book, and when the dazed reader nods, Trent tells him he should not be surprised before swinging the axe. Trent is arrested for the murder.

After Trent finishes telling his story, Dr. Wrenn judges it a meaningless hallucination. Trent wakes the following day to find the asylum abandoned. He departs as a radio announces that the world has been overrun with monstrous creatures, including mutating humans, and that outbreaks of suicide and mass murder are commonplace. Trent goes to see the In the Mouth of Madness film and discovers that he is the main character. As he watches his previous actions play out on screen, including a scene where he insisted to Linda "This is reality!", Trent begins laughing hysterically before breaking down crying; finally realizing he was a character in the book all along.



Michael De Luca wrote the script in the late 1980s and one of the first directors he offered it to was John Carpenter,[3] who initially passed on the project. New Line Cinema later announced production in 1989 with director Tony Randel attached to direct.[3] Later Mary Lambert was also attached to direct.[3] A few years later, Carpenter signed on as director in December 1992 and filming took place from August to October 1993.[3]

The town scenes in Hobb's End were filmed on Main Street Unionville, and the exterior of the Black Church is actually the Cathedral of the Transfiguration. Both are located in Markham, Ontario.[4]


The film pays tribute to the work of seminal horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, with many references to his stories and themes. Its title is a play on Lovecraft's novella, At the Mountains of Madness, and insanity plays as great a role in the film as it does in Lovecraft's fiction. The opening scene depicts Trent's confinement to an asylum, with the bulk of the story told in flashback, a common technique of Lovecraft's. Reference is made to Lovecraftian settings and details (such as a character that shares the name of Lovecraft's Pickman family). Sutter Cane's novels have similar titles to H.P. Lovecraft stories : The Whisperer of the Dark (The Whisperer in Darkness), The Thing in the Basement (The Thing on the Doorstep), Haunter out of Time (The Haunter of the Dark/The Shadow Out of Time), and The Hobbs End Horror (The Dunwich Horror), the latter also referencing Hobbs End underground station from Nigel Kneale's Quatermass and the Pit.

The film can also be seen as a reference to Stephen King, who, like Lovecraft, writes horror fiction set in New England hamlets.[5][6]


Box office[edit]

In the Mouth of Madness was released in December 1994 in Italy, and on February 3, 1995 in the U.S. In the U.S., it grossed $3,441,807 in its first weekend, and $8,946,600 total during its run.[1]

Home media[edit]

A Blu-ray Disc of the film by New Line Cinema was released on October 15, 2013.[7] In 2016, the film was re-released on DVD by Warner Archive Collection.[8] Shout! Factory re-released the film on Blu Ray in a collector's edition form on July 24, 2018.[9]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 59% based on 46 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 5.6/10.[10] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 53 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[11]

French magazine Cahiers du Cinéma listed the film as #10 on their 1995 Top 10 List.[12]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
22nd Saturn Awards Best Horror Film In the Mouth of Madness Nominated
Best Make-Up (K.N.B. EFX Group Inc.) Nominated
Fantasporto Critics' Award John Carpenter Won
Best Film Nominated


  1. ^ a b c "In the Mouth of Madness (1995) – Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  2. ^ Topolsky, Joshua (2012-09-02). "The Classics: John Carpenter's 'Apocalypse Trilogy'". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  3. ^ a b c d Wilson, William S. (2015-02-03). "Newsploitation: In the Mouth of Box Office Sadness". Video Junkie. Retrieved 2015-02-03.
  4. ^ "In the Mouth of Madness production still". Archived from the original on 2009-10-16. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
  5. ^ Chris Hicks (1995-02-07). "Deseret News: In the Mouth of Madness Review". Deseret News. Archived from the original on 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2009-07-26.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "High-Def Disc News → 'In the Mouth of Madness' Dated for Blu-ray". High-Def Digest. 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  8. ^ "In the Mouth of Madness (1995) (MOD)". Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  9. ^ "In The Mouth Of Madness [Collector's Edition] - Blu-ray - Shout! Factory". Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  10. ^ "In the Mouth of Madness (1995) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Flixer. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  11. ^ "In the Mouth of Madness Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Top lists Cahiers du cinéma". Retrieved 10 November 2018.

External links[edit]