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In The Mouth Of Madness – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Scream Factory continues its roll out of new John Carpenter Blu-rays with his 1994 film In The Mouth Of Madness. This one is getting the coveted Collector’s Edition treatment, featuring plenty of new extras to stack the disc. Previously, the Warner Bros release only had a commentary track (Ported over here to this release). So Scream has whipped their normal magic into effect. Many consider In The Mouth Of Madness to be Carpenter’s last good or great film. Of course he’d go on to make some more films before taking a little hiatus and then pretty much enjoying retirement. This twisted bit of terror is a welcome addition to the Collector’s Edition series and the Scream Factory John Carpenter canon. You’ll be able to pick this one up on July 24th (Along with Memoirs of an Invisible Man), so be sure to pre-order a copy from the Amazon link below.

Film 

When horror novelist Sutter Cane goes missing, insurance investigator John Trent scrutinizes the claim made by his publisher, Jackson Harglow, and endeavors to retrieve a yet-to-be-released manuscript and ascertain the writer’s whereabouts. Accompanied by the novelist’s editor, Linda Styles, and disturbed by nightmares from reading Cane’s other novels, Trent makes an eerie nighttime trek to a supernatural town in New Hampshire.

John Carpenter has only directed one sequel in his career; Escape From LA. However, Carpenter does have trilogy. Dubbed the “Apocalypse Trilogy”, its a thematic one that features begins in The Thing, continues with Prince of Darkness and finishes here with In the Mouth of Madness. In three parts, Carpenter takes us on a wicked journey of the destruction of the individual, god and reality. In the Mouth of Madness is the one that touches upon the destruction of reality.

We know going in that this film is going to deal with some sort of paranormal terror, but to start, things in the film are rather normal. Like Chinatown introduced us to the great Jake Geddis, Sam Neil’s John Trent is first scene gives us him as an ace insurance fraud investigator completing a case with ease. Not shortly after the “madness” as it were, is introduced in the form of the axe wielding maniac that we find not too long ago was normal. John Carpenter slow, but surely begins blending in the sense supernatural, paranoia and insanity until it come crashing at great heights. There are mysteries, clues and a trail to follow that make the journey ever so intriguing like the best of page turners as you eagerly wonder just what is behind all of these events and characters.

Going beyond theme, as films, In the Mouth of Madness shares plenty with its brethren films The Thing and Prince of Darkness. The creatures in the film are Lovecraftian in nature, but the tentacled style could very much fit in with what we see in The Thing. We also get the sense of being in a limited space and everything closing in in the end as both previous films presented. Some of the dimensional stuff as well as the zombie-like crowds of people outside definitely are a reminder of the Alice Cooper led group outside the church used as the focal location in Prince of Darkness.

John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness is a fantastic capper to his Apocalypse Trilogy. All three of them have completely different styles and feelings to them while all holding strong together. His films that follow can be debating on their sense of worth or quality, but it stands that In the Mouth of Madness is truly a terrific film and probably the last one that could be agreed upon on at least being “good”. This one really took me for a spin when saw it at age 13 and continues to fascinate me on a bit deeper level with age. Many like to dog the first half of the 1990s with horror, and some parts of the genre were in the drecks. But there were many good ones and even great ones, as In the Mouth of Madness holds on as one of the best of the entire decade let alone just the first half (Lets not sell this one short).

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: In the Mouth of Madness comes to Blu-ray for the second time with a brand new 4K scan from the original film elements. While this is an improvement over the previous release, its not a gigantic leap. Remember, the previous release looked pretty good. This one will reveal itself mainly during the darker scenes in the film. When there, you can easily see improvement. It also shows up in some of the more colorful sets used in the movie. Detail does see an uptick here as well as depth.

Depth:  Spacing and depth of field sees a good bit of improvement and a more pushback feel. You’ll notice in some of the more pulled back and elaborate shots with camera movement that include some more full looks at the sky. Movements are smooth and cinematic.

Black Levels: Blacks are where we see a lot of the improvements. More details are apparent, the image looks much richer and strong. The darker scenes help to highlight some of the more bursting colors at times as well. No crushing present.

Color Reproduction: Colors are sneakily very strong here. Blue shows up in some good force, especially during that moment on the bus. Also, the reds on Sutter Cane’s writing room look quite fantastic in this image (Making you wonder what HDR may have added). Overall the new 4K scanned image features obviously improved saturation and color strength.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial details like crayon markings, sweat, dried blood, wrinkles, stubble and more come through quite clear from reasonable distances.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: I think this is the same 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix that was featured on the previous Warner Bros Blu-ray release of In the Mouth of Madness. Nonetheless its a pretty terrific experience. Sound effects are well done and delivered, but they do sit at a bit higher volume than the vocals. Some of the score is set a little louder as well, but not as prominent. It could be by design to better amplify jumps and intense moments, luring one into turning up the volume early on.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Bass in the score, thunder and many of the louder action moments give a solid rumble from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: There are some pretty cool moments that happened during some of the more crazy sequences and some lightning hits come from the rear on their own. Much of this looks toward the front, but its a rather full experience that doesn’t just go overboard to go overboard.

Dialogue Reproduction: As mentioned prior, vocals are set a little lower in this mix. They are pretty clear, full and crisp, however.

Extras 

In the Mouth of Madness – Collector’s Edition comes with reversible cover art featuring the original theatrical poster.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director John Carpenter and Producer Sandy King Carpenter
  • With Director John Carpenter and Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe 

Horror’s Hollowed Grounds (HD, 11:30) – Another excellent journey with Sean Clark through the locations from the film as they are today. He winds up through an impressive amount of places with full access (Except the hotel room, which the place claims was all booked up but Sean is doubtful). Clark provides little tid bits about some history on the site, what’s been redone or was done only for the film.

The Whisperer Of The Dark (HD, 9:46) – An interview with actor Julie Carmen. She was offered the part through working on television movie with Jamie Lee Curtis where Sandy King was the script supervisor and wanted her for the part in In The Mouth of Madness. She talks how her and Carpenter pushed for her character to be a little flat and satirical in that way, yet critics wound up knocking her for the very thing she was trying to be. Carmen talks of a love scene that was cut from the film and why she thinks it was cut. She also gets into some deep horror thematics and how it relates to the world.

Greg Nicotero’s Things In The Basement (HD, 16:34) – “One of the most exciting times of my career was to work with John”. Nicotero talks word coming about Madness during wrapping up on Body Bags and he was excited to tackle Lovecraftian creatures. He talks Carpenter’s favorite creature in the film and goes over bit by bit (Including clips from the “Home Movies” featurette) the creatures and make-up designs and their execution throughout the film, wanting to build visuals as the movie progressed.

Home Movies From Hobb’s End (HD, 12:07) – Various VHS clips, provided by Greg Nicotero, of effects and make-up tests as well as some on-set footage of run throughs and some actual takes.

Vintage Featurette: The Making Of In The Mouth Of Madness (SD, 5:02) – An EPK featuring narration that has on-set interviews with John Carpenter, Sam Neill, Charlton Heston, Jurgen Prochnow and a few of the effects guys.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:46) – I find it funny in the trailers (Also in the TV Spots) that John Carpenter is being sold on being the guy who did Christine and Starman (In addition to Halloween, of course). You can tell they are selling on previous box office successes rather than notable career achievements.

TV Spots (SD, 9:34)

Summary 

In the Mouth of Madness is every bit as terrific as you’d expect from a title like that. John Carpenter explores some new highs in a film that’s true to him and unique to him in its own ways. Scream Factory delivers a Blu-ray that’ll leave the fans very happy with some improved video as well as a nice load of brand new extras. I mean, I say I’ll recommend it, but you’ll pick it up anyway.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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