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Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

It is rare for a movie sequel to equal or exceed the original film.  In the realm of horror, there’s always that formulaic trap, but for a film so brilliantly original and powerful as Hellraiser, it becomes a challenge of artistic ambition and macabre thematic imagination.  Hellbound: Hellraiser II is that sequel which takes what the first film unleashed upon us, and built upon it for a fully enveloping vision of masterful horror.  Before, you were only teased at the temptations and horrors of Leviathan’s realm.  Now, you are plunged fully into this experience which will tear your soul apart.  Welcome to Hell, and the 100th review posted to Forever Cinematic.

Picking up just about where the previous film ended, Larry, Frank, and Julia are all dead.  Meanwhile, Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) is being held within the Channard Institute of Mental Health for observation.  She speaks of the Cenobites, the dead returning to life, the opening of a gateway to hell.  Of course, people believe she is psychologically traumatized by the death of her father.  Although, one thing gains the attention of Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham).  Kirsty mentions that they must destroy the mattress that Julia died on for she can return just as Frank did.  Channard put his hands on the bloodstained mattress where her stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins) died, Channard decides to resurrect her, killing his patients and offering them to Julia to quicken her regeneration.  The twisted doctor is shown to have much research into a familiar puzzle box, properly called the Lament Configuration, and via the puzzle-solving talents of one of his patients, Tina (Imogen Boorman), a speechless young girl, the Cenobites are summoned once again.  Soon, all of our main characters venture into hell, Channard and Julia to explore it, Kirsty and Tina to stop the aforementioned duo.

If you haven’t seen the first Hellraiser, this sequel smartly brings you up-to-speed with a few carefully placed flashbacks and expositional sequences.  Still, there’s no excuse these days not to watch that amazing film.  However, back then, it took about a year for a movie to go from theatrical release to home video.  So, audiences needed a little refresher in 1988, and it’s done very smoothly here.

This film treats the Cenobites with the respect they earned in Clive Barker’s original movie.  Flashbacks aside, they don’t make their first appearance until fifty minutes into the picture, but when they do, we get an introduction of majesty.  Pinhead is given a truly iconic moment stepping out from the blinding white light alone, and the music is at its operatic best here.  The Cenobites are still generally background characters, but are given the opportunity to step forward into a more fascinating and revealing role.  It’s one of the many ways this film builds upon the ideas and mystique of the first Hellraiser.  It knows you’re intrigued by all of this boundless imagination, and it reels you in further with enticing insights that do not disappoint.

Dr. Channard is a fascinating new character that pushes the film beyond its smaller, more intimate beginnings.  He is a man of no conscience, and is driven towards exploring the twisted, despicable, dark depths of the human mind.  Where Frank was a sexually charged character, Channard is more cerebral.  He’s psychologically stimulated by the gruesome horrors that he witnesses and even inflicts upon others.  He’s a sociopath, sadist, and psychopath, which is exactly what Leviathan craves.  Channard is in amazement and wonder at the sight of Hell, as if it is his Promised Land.  What he gets from it is more than he ever anticipated, but ultimately, does not regret it.  Actor Kenneth Cranham does a fantastic job with this character, and he restrains nothing when Hell finally gets its way with the Doctor.  It takes a lot to rival Pinhead in the eyes of the fans, but many have long taken a strong liking to Channard.  That’s all due to Cranham’s excellent performance.

Hellbound is absolutely grotesque.  There’s not a drop of blood spared at any moment in this unrated cut.  The violence is as gritty and graphic as you could imagine and then some.  What you witnessed in Clive Barker’s film is multiplied in Tony Randel’s sequel.  The most disgusting and horrific sights come from the Channard Cenobite, who is Leviathan’s most powerful creation.  Channard’s twisted, sickening psyche combined with Leviathan’s power and domination give birth to a frightening monstrosity that ups the stakes in the final act.  This is not a film for the weak of stomach.  This is a heavyweight horror film loaded with terrifying, disturbing imagery, and gore in abundance.  There is nothing held back from the dark, macabre imagination of Clive Barker, screenwriter Peter Atkins, or the magnificent direction of Tony Randel.  The special make-up and creature effects do not fall off one bit from the first film, and are possibly more refined in some places.  It’s more of that signature Clive Barker repulsive beauty that is brought to glorious life.  His imagination delves into places that are far too forbidden for others, but it is where he thrives, creatively.  Barker finds an attraction and an elegant artistry in these dark corners of the human psyche, and the creative forces on these first two Hellraiser films were able to embrace and realize that so marvelously.  The special make-up effects artists employed for both films were clearly masters of their craft bringing gritty, ghastly realism to everything they did.

While the visual effects are still rather low budget using strictly grainy optical techniques, stop motion photography, and animation, they are very ambitious.  They really push the boundaries of anything you’d expect from a generally low budget horror film of this time.  The filmmakers had a bold vision to realize, and they were going to commit every bit of it to film.  For a modern audience, yes, these effects come off as primitive, but it’s something these filmmakers had to work hard to accomplish.  It took a wide imagination, and a commitment to a rigorous process to put them up on screen.  For that alone, I respect these visual effects immensely.

This is truly an exceptionally well shot film creating a masterpiece of horror.  Tony Randel allows this sequel to seamlessly blend with the first Hellraiser.  While that film is incontrovertibly iconic in so many ways, Hellbound simply goes more ambitious with its visuals along with the story.  Once inside Hell, we are treated to powerful, nightmarish images of blood, fire, sexual desires, and epic scope.  Leviathan’s realm is a vast labyrinth of torture and pleasure indivisibly merged as one.  Delving into Frank Cotton’s personal hell shows him tormented by temptation unable to satisfy his desires.  This scene is ultimately a great moment that ties up a little bit of loose ends from the previous film.  Seeing Frank, Kirsty, and Julia confronting one another again is an awesome moment with plenty of pay-off.

Above anything else is Christopher Young’s bold, more expansive score.  The first film was more intimate with a smaller scope, and Young punctuated that tone and atmosphere beautifully.  Here, it’s verbose and operatic.  It’s grand and sweeping matching the film’s broader, more ominous scope.  Hearing the powerful gothic theme crash into the film following the opening flashback just gets my blood pumping.  It makes an immediate statement that Hellbound: Hellraiser II is bigger and bolder.  It sends chills up and down me.  This music is frightening, dark, and gorgeous.  It’s a masterpiece all on its own, but coupled with the film, it’s indelibly iconic.  It’s possibly the best and most beautiful horror movie score I’ve ever heard.  This film in particular is why the name Christopher Young holds so much eternal respect with me.  What he achieved here became inevitably influential in various gothic styled scores in the years following this film such as Batman and The Crow.

Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II are so seamlessly blended together and the latter builds so perfectly on the ideas and aspects of the former, that they can feel like two halves of a single whole story.  This sequel takes the logical progression of plot forward, and expands on everything  While they do both powerfully exist apart from one another, they are immensely stronger as a single entity.  You get a fuller story with wider scope and deeper insights into the themes presents in these stories and characters.  It is an absolutely brilliant piece of work that demonstrates exactly what a great sequel is meant to do.

The returning cast members also push themselves further.  Julia has definitely changed having gone to Hell and back.  She is still a conniving and devilish woman, but now, her motives are far more insidious and grand.  She is no longer than one being manipulated.  Julia is now the one leading the mesmerized Channard towards a dreadful fate.  Clare Higgins takes that strength to a much more imposing and dangerous level.  Doug Bradley is given a great opportunity here as both Pinhead, and his human alter ego British Army Captain Elliott Spenser.  The film offers up a stunning revelation about the Cenobites, and we see who Pinhead was before he was tortured and twisted by Hell.  With only a few moments of screentime in his human form, Bradley gives us a strong sense of humanity and compassion which sets up for a better story than what he got with the next sequel.  His opening scene is shockingly powerful showing the creation of Pinhead himself with each nail being hammered into his skull, and him screaming in agony.

Ashley Laurence evolves with the role of Kirsty.  She’s more aggressive and assertive now.  No longer is Kirsty cowering in fear, trembling at the carnage she sees.  She is motivated forward with a new found courage as she charges straight into Hell on a search to find her father, and does not let her encounters with the Cenobites, Frank, or Julia deter her from attempting this.  Kirsty has become a far stronger person now, and becomes an even more confident hero for the audience.  Yet, there’s still that solid core of warmth and heart that made her so relatable and endearing to begin with.  She has done a remarkable, standout job in this role, and it is thankful that she would get the chance to reprise it once more in Hellraiser: Hellseeker.

There is just no weak link anywhere in this film.  It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the first film as a bonafide horror classic.  I really do love what Clive Barker has brought us in the medium of film.  His imagination seems boundless and always fascinating.  While he believes, same as with his own written and directed Hellraiser, that this is an uneven film, there is nothing I can ever take away from it.  Any technical aspects that haven’t stood the test of time still display an amazing depth of vision that startle the senses.  Tony Randel did a stunning job as director of this picture.  He has said that the film reflects the dark mindset he was in at the time, and while that might not have been favorable for him, it benefitted this film immensely.  This is a dark, intriguing, and revealing journey into an expansive, macabre world that would not have been easy to achieve without that mindset.  Every talent involved was clearly committed wholeheartedly towards this challenging vision, and it resulted in an undeniable masterpiece of horror.  Hellbound: Hellraiser II is one of the best horror films ever made, and many consider it superior to the first film.  Both are different enough in their stories and scopes to offer you something distinct while also complimenting one another beautifully.  With this film, the Hellraiser franchise seemed as if it could have limitless potential for original, innovative stories with the right minds behind it.  Unfortunately, subsequent sequels would be a severely mixed bag with more bad than good in the hands of Dimension Films who would ultimately run it into the ground.


House on Haunted Hill (1999)

Back in 1999, the horror genre was a different game.  We were in the wake of the post-modern, self-referential Scream clones, but there was room for something a little more creepy and atmospheric.  Remakes hadn’t become an epidemic, despite a couple of reviled ones surfacing.  Then arose Dark Castle Entertainment who wanted to re-fashion several old William Castle black & white scare flicks for a modern audience.  In the long run, their attempts took a quick, steep decline in quality, but their first effort was House on Haunted Hill, which originally starred classic horror icon Vincent Price.  This was an interesting effort that left many critics of the day very cold, but I have always found it to be an effective, if slightly flawed film that did entertain.

Eccentric millionaire and amusement park thrill ride mogul Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush) learns that his vindictive wife, Evelyn (Famke Janssen), twistedly chooses to hold her birthday party at the “House on Haunted Hill.”  The house used to be the Vannacutt Institute for the Criminally Insane until a violent mass murder marked its end decades ago.  Being an equally twisted master of thrills, Steven plans to alter his wife’s guest list, but the vengeful spirits of the house have other plans.  When the five guests arrive at the house, they are met by Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan), whose grandfather designed the house, and whose father helped build it.  After a bit of a scare to jump start them all, Steven Price reveals himself and his intentions in grand fashion – he knows no other way.  If these guests can all survive the night, they will receive one million dollars each, and if any should die, their money shall be divided up between the survivors.  Obviously, none of them know why they’ve been invited to this place, and neither do Steven or Evelyn.  However, when the house suddenly and mysteriously goes into lockdown, sealing off all exits, and further bizarre, frightening incidents occur, they slowly begin to heed Pritchett’s claims of the house being haunted by the murderous spirits of the inmates who were killed here decades ago.

House on Haunted Hill is an immensely creepy film.  There is a wealth of frighteningly chaotic and psychotic imagery that will have most audiences jumping out of their skin.  It has a very classic haunted house ghost story, but with a modern intensity.  There’s a mix of subtle, ominous moments, and intense in-your-face, bone rattling scares.  One of the best chilling moments is when one of the characters, toting a video camera, comes across a room of ghosts who are only visible via the video camera.  She observes them for a moment before they all become aware that she is watching them.  The scene is then punctuated with one of the film’s biggest exclamation points.  It’s a deeply effective scene on multiple levels with a creepy setup and startling conclusion.

The film really incorporates plenty of dark, eerie atmosphere and a chilling sound design to keep an audience rattled and on edge.  The cinematography by Rick Bota is very powerful with an abundance of shadows and clever, moody lighting which set a very rich tone throughout the picture.  There’s a very effective score by Don Davis who incorporates some dark, heavy compositions that really drive home the imminent danger and ominous, haunting qualities here.  His score never allows you to feel very safe at any moment in the film, but still is able to strongly punctuate the right scares at the right times.

Making the house an actual former asylum for the criminally insane run by a madman was a great idea.  It opened the film up to some extremely disturbing visuals such as when Steven Price is locked in the “saturation chamber” which causes sensory overload, and forces him to become delusional.  All of that archaic, jagged medical equipment really added a creepy feeling to the bowels of the house.  It just has a very hard edged industrial look that brings out a very primal fear.  The Dr. Vannacutt character himself comes off as immensely disturbing without ever speaking a word, and seeing his ghost stalk the house always sends chills up and down my spine.  The bizarre, jittery motion of Vannacutt presents something so unnatural that it is downright creepy.  Not only is this place haunted, but it’s haunted by the mentally disturbed.  The creep factor couldn’t be richer in that regard.  It’s a very smart creative direction for this remake.  It adds something new to the mix without altering the base concept.

The cast here is all gold all the way through.  You can never deny the wonderful charismatic work of Geoffrey Rush.  He leads the film with a very sly, venomous quality and a rich helping of enthusiasm.  He was having a lot of fun playing this role.  Steven Price will do anything for a good scare.  That makes the character both very interesting and entertaining, but also, a cutthroat foil for certain characters.  Being so cunningly manipulative and dastardly egotistical, he is easily viewed as shady and coldly villainous.  Overall, Steven Price is a showman, and there couldn’t have been a better actor to bring those elegant, classy qualities to life than Geoffrey Rush.  Also, the mustache was a nice touch to his appearance emulating the look of Vincent Price.

There is a dark, spicy performance here from Famke Janssen who is right up to Geoffrey Rush’s level as a conniving, devilish woman.  There’s no lack of a dangerous edge to Evelyn as she proves to be capable of wicked, devious turns.  The love-hate relationship between the unhappily married Prices is a juicy bit of conflict in the film, and provides a lot of fine material for Rush and Janssen to work with.  Their chemistry is deliciously vile, and creates an enthralling, passionate fire to keep the film lively.

Chris Kattan has great comedic energy, as always.  He plays up Pritchett’s skittish fear in a very entertaining way.  He’s the one person that knows the dreadful reality of the house, and that frightful knowledge really manifests in a very funny yet prophetic performance.  It adds levity where needed while bolstering the grim threat that the house does possess.  Kattan’s performance really sets a foreboding tone that plays nicely off of Geoffrey Rush’s more mischievous, enjoyably despicable style.

The always vibrant Taye Diggs plays the strong heroic type in the ex-pro baseball player Eddie Baker.  Diggs is a bright talent with a lot of charm and charisma who never fails to endear himself to an audience, and that’s no different here.  The beautiful Ali Larter from Final Destination fame gives us a solid, assertive performance as Sara Wolfe that really drives her into the forefront by the end.  Bridgette Wilson does nicely as the ambitious Melissa, but has the least amount of screentime of the main cast to really breakout.  Of course, the wonderfully talented Peter Gallagher brings a subtle, engaging intelligence to Donald W. Blackburn, M.D., and showcases a fine tinge of humor and a perfectly seedy dark side.  He has a nice twist in the film that fits comfortably into the treacherous, scheming ways of the Prices.  Capping it off is genre great Jeffrey Combs who puts in an excellently psychotic and spine-tingling performance as Dr. Vannacutt.

Granted, aside from Steven and Evelyn Price, the characters aren’t given all that much to work with.  They’re essentially one-note characters, but in a lively, entertaining B-movie style with high quality talents behind them.  The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and basically just wants you to have fun scaring you in the most effective ways possible.  With a solid cast that has very natural chemistry together, it makes that approach work very well.

The film does have some highly effective visual effects, and the practical effects are yet again done by the standard bearers of the industry – KNB EFX Group.  You’re likely to see them pop up in a lot of reviews I’m doing for Forever Horror Month because of that fact. While House on Haunted Hill is not very heavy on splatter effects, it does have its generous helping of blood, a few graphic images that required only the best to achieve them.

The digital effects near the end when the full dark spirits are unleashed are arguable if they’re up to the standards of 1999 era CGI.  Regardless, they still come off as very lacking, in retrospect.  To my eyes, they just seem rather typical and not exceptional in conception or execution.  They seem more akin to what you’d see if this were adapted into a video game at the time, but for the big monstrous evil to cap off the film, it is a definite nose dive.  While some effects in this climactic sequence are a little better than others, the CGI apparition just doesn’t do much at all for me.  It’s a failure in design, primarily, and quite lackluster in execution.  For a film that showed some strong creativity in its scares and production design, this feels like someone running out of good ideas at the last minute.  This digital creation definitely could’ve used more creative thought put into it for a more unique impact.

The ending overall is not the best it could have been.  It just sort of shifts into high gear racing to the end credits in the last ten minutes discarding with much of the plot and suspense it had built up, and it dispatches of its characters very swiftly.  The richly enjoyable characters just don’t have a conclusion befitting their performances, and are disposed of like ripe smelling trash.  While the “darkness” is setup early on, the creep factor of the film is so focused on the Vannacutt spirit and the other twisted ghosts that it just goes a little off-kilter when it takes a turn into that full-on CGI creation stalking the characters.  The film could’ve used a far smoother and natural transition into its final act, and had a more prolonged climax to allow for a more graceful resolution for each member of this stellar cast.  As it is, a great scene of Steven and Evelyn literally at each others’ throats is cut short to unleash this manifestation of evil.  It’s an abrupt shift in the momentum and direction of the film, and in this case, it works against the better strengths of the film.  It’s not a bad ending, just one that disappoints when the build up had more potential.  A better setup would have been showing this darkness slowly leaking out throughout the film until it finally forms out in the open, thus, allowing for an underlying foreboding tension to build as the film goes on.  It would allow the knowledge that this darker, more powerful evil is soon to befall these characters instead of springing it onto an audience in sudden fashion.

I do like the reveal of why the ghosts chose these people to invite to the party.  It fulfills the vengeful spirit angle smartly, and gives a purpose to collecting an unlikely group of strangers here.  How it pays off at the very end is rather cheap, and adds to the weakness of the film’s conclusion.  That whole ending just feels like a different screenwriter took over without a fraction of the ambition for creativity as the rest of the movie.  I will give credit to how the Steven Price character continually enhances the danger, tension, and distrust as the film goes on.  Giving everyone a handgun is the first unsettling step.  The fact that he has the house wired up with video cameras, and likely has plenty of wild tricks setup throughout the house, heightens that shady air of distrust.  He establishes the intense, sly situation with a devilish smirk so that everyone can easily accuse Price of these strange occurrences, and they constantly do so throughout the film as people die or go missing.  This creates a strong conflict as Price sees the ghost of Vannacutt stalking through the house, knowing exactly who is responsible, even if he doesn’t believe what he is.  It’s a smart dynamic which maintains a level of heightened tension, paranoia, and suspense amongst these diverse personalities.  There’s enough uncertainty circulating amongst these characters to constantly question what to believe.  It keeps them nicely off-balance for an exciting, intense ride.  Generally speaking, the premise is nicely laid out with a tight pacing that keeps the thrills coming at a regular interval.

The direction of William Malone is superb as he easily gave us the best film from Dark Castle Entertainment.  Obviously, it has its flaws near the end, but up until then, it is a film of solid, spine chilling scares with plenty of creepy atmosphere.  It has plenty of fun thrills that will satisfy a late night desire for a haunted house tale.  The film is worth seeing just for the entertaining cast with Geoffrey Rush and Chris Kattan the most enjoyable among them.  House on Haunted Hill was a decent success for Dark Castle that I think holds more entertainment value than most critics gave it credit for.  It’s certainly not a great horror movie, but it’s definitely a good one that delivers on the scares.  I do recommend it, but just don’t expect much from the ending.  Enjoy the good while it lasts!


In The Mouth of Madness (1995)

What if you were nothing but a fictional character?  What if you were simply a figment of an author’s imagination?  What if reality, as you know it, ceased to exist?  What if you were the creation of horror writer Sutter Cane?  This is the premise for John Carpenter’s 1995 classic, In The Mouth of Madness.

Sam Neill stars as John Trent, a freelance insurance fraud investigator.  Trent is the best in the business, and has just debunked an insurance claim for his friend and colleague, Robbie (Bernie Casey).  After his job is done, Robbie wants Trent to investigate an insurance claim that has to do with the disappearance of best-selling horror novelist, Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow).  Though, their meeting is cut short by an axe wielding maniac with a very bizarre look in his eyes.  This maniac nearly kills Trent, and he soon learns that this was Cane’s agent during a meeting with Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston), the head man of the publishing company for Cane’s books.  Harglow introduces Trent to Cane’s editor, Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), who says that Cane’s writing tends to have a strange impact on its readers.  With the masses clamoring for Cane’s next novel, Harglow is desperate to find Cane, and more importantly, the complete manuscript for the novel, In The Mouth of Madness.  Grounded in reality, Trent believes this is all some elaborate publicity stunt by Harglow, and even concocts his own theory of it all.  Ultimately, he discovers a map built out of the Cane’s own book artwork that leads to the supposed fictional town of Hobb’s End, New Hampshire.  John is sent off with Linda to decipher this mystery, but slowly, reality begins to come undone as Sutter Cane starts to take control.  And no matter how much Styles tries to sway Trent’s perspective of everything that’s going on around them, he stands strong in what he believes to be real.  However, will this unraveling of reality around John Trent drive him straight into the mouth of madness?

Before I get into the meat of this film, I have to express my enjoyment of the film’s music.  As is well known, John Carpenter composes the music for his own films, and has a strong track record of excellent scores and main title themes.  Carpenter teams with Jim Lang to produce a fantastic score, and a very bluesy, yet extremely catchy main title theme.  If you like Carpenter’s score for Vampires, this theme will be right up there with it!  I have been a proud owner of the film’s original soundtrack album for many years, and that opening title theme is a true highlight for me.  Carpenter really kicks off this film right with this opening credits sequence, and really sets a great tone for the whole film.

Now, this final installment in John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy” (which also consists of The Thing and Prince of Darkness) features a fantastic cast!  In addition to Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Event Horizon), Jürgen Prochnow (Beverly Hills Cop II), and Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes), you’ve got the great character actors in David Warner and one of my personal favorites, John Glover.  Warner starred in the late 80’s horror classic, Waxwork, has had several parts in the Star Trek film & television franchises, and worked previously with Carpenter on the anthology TV movie Body Bags.  John Glover you may know from the 1999 Mel Gibson revenge actioneer Payback, as the Devil on the short-lived FOX series Brimstone, from Gremlins 2, or more recently, his role as Lionel Luthor on Smallville.  Carpenter character actor regular Peter Jason also has an appearance early on in the film, and he brings out one of his best performances opposite Sam Neill as an insurance scammer.  It’s just a stellar cast that I think only Carpenter could’ve culled together.  Every single actor puts in a great performance, and Julie Carmen (Fright Night, Part II) is no exception either.

Most prominently, Sam Neill puts in a superb performance, as he always does, and grounds Trent well into the bounds of reality.  Even when a normal person would’ve given into some form of dementia or hysteria, Trent continues to weed out the con, and Neill makes it truly convincing.  He inhabits the character beautifully.  He richly knows the character.  He knows his reasoning, and understands how the character’s mind works.  He’s so dead set on finding some level of a con in all that’s going on around him that to give into the illusion Cane is creating is not a possibility.  Of course, when Trent eventually does go past the brink of sanity, Neill sells it well, but not by playing it as a crazy, but as a fearful prophet of doom.  He knows the inevitable truth, can do what he wants to stop it, but knows that it’s all a futile effort – the world is going mad, the end is near.  Overall, it’s an amazing and deeply fleshed out performance fueled by a wonderfully written character.

That being said, I cannot overlook Michael De Luca’s fantastic script, and I give him monstrous praise for the imagination it took to conjure together such a well-woven story of surrealism..  He forges a very intelligent piece of horror storytelling with a smart structure and strong, memorable characters.  It’s an entirely compelling premise that is frightening to contemplate, and is the core reason why this is my favorite horror film of all time.  It’s not just the idea of reality as we know it degenerating into a horrific nightmare, but how it is masterfully woven together through Trent’s eyes that makes this such a brilliant piece of cinematic awesomeness.  Of course, bringing it to John Carpenter was simply inspired and perfect.

Some say John Carpenter had lost his style and talent by the 90’s, and there ARE examples of that – Village of the Damned, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, and eventually, Ghosts of Mars in 2000 – but this is not one of them.  He directs and shoots this film as well as Escape From New York, The Thing, Christine, or even Halloween.  Carpenter really entrenches you in the world of Sutter Cane, and presents Cane as the imposing, frighteningly powerful figure he’s been built up to be.  The cinematography by Gary B. Kibbe is fantastic here, and it fits well with Carpenter’s style.  It allows for dramatic tension, a foreboding atmosphere, and it nicely conveys the entire ‘unraveling of reality’ element that builds throughout the entire film.  This is one of John Carpenter’s best films ever, and it’s only a shame that it doesn’t get as greatly noticed or appreciated as it deserves to be.

The only detractor I find in the entire film are the ‘unspeakable abominations’ that are unleashed from ‘the other side’ late in the film.  Not to say anything bad about the usually fantastic makeup and creature effects of KNB EFX Group, but it may have played a little better if we never actually saw these creatures.  Keep them hidden, and left in shadow.  I just think that unspeakable abominations are better left to the imagination of the audience.  They just don’t sell well with me here, but their sequence is a quiet brief and only in quick cuts.  So, it’s nothing to ruin the film for you.  This is far too exceptional and frightening of a film to have such a minor thing like that overshadow it.  There are intensely horrific images within this movie that will disturb you, make you cringe.  One of the main influences for much of the film were the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  I have read a good deal of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and the imagery and feel of this film truly conveys much of what Lovecraft expressed in his work.  Thank KNB EFX Group for creating such dead-on creations that really hold to that influence.  They proved their cutting edge talent here with amazing and unsettling make-up effects which bring the horror to intense life.

In The Mouth of Madness is, without a doubt, a Carpenter classic, and is as deserving of all the praise as his other classics.  He takes De Luca’s superb screenplay, and realizes it with the skill of a master craftsman.  Every nuance in this subtle, intricate horror story is brilliantly executed with a dead-on perfect cast.  Carpenter and De Luca weave a chilling story that is strong, setting up characters, a reality, a plot, and then, slowly deconstructing it piece by piece.  What remains in the end is madness, and a thought-provoking, but still entertaining horror movie.  There is only one other thing to say here, and that is, you need to go watch this movie!