Tuesday, June 07, 2005

In the Mouth of Madness (John Carpenter)

I've seen a lot of John Carpenter's seventies and eighties films, but, until seeing this movie last Friday, I hadn't seen anything he's done since "They Live." What I like about his movies is his strong sense of place and atmosphere and his obvious debts to his favorite director (and one of mine), Howard Hawks. "In the Mouth of Madness" has none of these attributes. It's a real mixed bag that sees Carpenter the director wrestling a decent horror movie out of Michael de Luca's reeking turd of a script. De Luca starts out with a neat little idea, but seems to think the self-referential postmodernism of his story is clever enough to supersede developed characters and dialogue that does more than just move the plot forward, but what do you expect from someone who's a movie executive? De Luca is a textbook example of a businessman with artistic pretensions. Luckily, he got Carpenter to direct and Sam Neill to play the lead. Carpenter misfires during the opening scenes by amping up the stylistic surrealities from the get-go instead of letting them build, though de Luca's terrible dialogue during the first twenty minutes would have hurt the film no matter how Carpenter set the scene. Carpenter's always been better at evoking the routines and mundanities of everyday life and seems awkward messing with trick camera angles, stylized sets, and exaggerated, frenetic acting. Once the plot is set in motion, however, the film improves greatly. It's still not exactly great art, but the horror scenes are creepy, exciting, and fun, and Sam Neill is very funny as a foul-mouthed insurance investigator. I like an actor who can swear with exuberance, and Neill doesn't disappoint in this regard.

2 comments:

kristykay said...

I love Sam Neil. In fact, I think the movie industry needs more Sam Neil. And what it really needs is more Sam Neil cussing profusely while everyone else in the movie doesn't cuss at all, except one ghost/demon thing that says "fuck you." Yes.

Krouchdog said...

Sam Neil cussing is awesome. I wish he'd do it more.

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