In The Mouth of Madness – 3/10
I like John Carpenter, but he just can’t manage subtle. And to me, the script here really needed it. Rather than a feeling of creeping dread, what we’re constantly told is “there’s something weird and wrong here…” and then we’re shown something weird and wrong.
There’s an old rule of story-telling – show don’t tell. In The Mouth Of Madness keeps doing both. Sometimes hinting at something is vastly more effective. This likes to telegraph its punches. So when the main character tells us that the sweet little old lady at the hotel wouldn’t hurt a fly, then mentions that the fictional version of her was a killer, we already know she’s going to be found doing something odd.
Later we get the scene with her at the desk. At one point she obviously kicks someone below the desk and we hear a groan. And if it had been left at that, it might have worked. But no, we get given a shot of the naked man cuffed to her leg. The whole film is like that. Clumsily setting up things, then saying “Oh look! Look at how strange and weird everything is!”
I know some people like it, but for me, it failed. And I really think a good portion of the problem comes from Carpenter’s choices.
For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.