In the Mouth of Madness (1994) – In Bedlam

Deviant Art

Deviant Art

The trampled Lovecraft and his insane stories…

John Carpenter pays homage to HP Lovecraft and his extraterrestrial sagas with In the Mouth of Madness. The name itself is inspired from Lovecraft’s own, At the Mountain of Madness. It takes extra liberty from Lovecraft’s most popular story, The Call of Cthulhu and other similar stories. Consequently, In the Mouth of Madness contains elements typified by Lovecraft—insanity, unknowable powers, inconceivable horror, extraterrestrial powers enslaving humans, and of course—the dampening, sickening degeneration of people thanks to the unknown.

When filmmakers pay tribute to their favorite authors, especially in horrors, they walk on a thin rope. Roger Corman, with his favorite actor Vincent Price, did a fine job of respecting Edgar Allan Poe’s classic stories and poems in the 60s. They’re generally popular as B-grade classics. Vincent Price (one of my personal favorites) always made these movies appear larger with his inimitable persona and a piercing voice. Roger Corman is a handy director too—not avant-garde, but he’s okay.

In cases when other filmmakers have adapted horror classics, there have been instances of inventiveness. The Innocents (Henry James, adapted by Clayton), The Haunting (Shirley Jackson, adapted by Wise), Rosemary’s Baby (Ira Levin, adapted by Polanski), The Exorcist (William Blatty, adapted by Friedkin), The Shining (Stephen King, adapted by Kubrick), and of course Misery (Stephen King, adapted by Reiner) are some of the most brilliant examples of a movie propelling the book into folklore.

In the case of Madness, Carpenter, whilst being a phenomenal presenter of violence and destruction, just doesn’t seem to bring his A-game. You can’t doubt Carpenter for the brilliant visuals here, but the story itself is loopy, pretentious, and Lovecraft’s obscurity is misguided, even though authentic. Take even The Fly (both versions – Newmann and Cronenburg); both movies use the story by George Langelaan to present a discreet view of powers in imprudent hands. The unknowable matches well with the unknown, and such a combo terrorizes viewers. In terrorizing them, the makers are honest.


The honesty is lacking from John Carpenter in the third installment of his Apocalypse Trilogy. The first two are The Thing (1982) and Prince of Darkness (1987). There’s a major point when the entire movie could have been thrown to water, if only the powers to-be acted in best interests of the society. If Sutter Cane’s (Jürgen Prochnow) book was notorious in driving his readers insane, why doesn’t anybody just ban the book, or abolish it? If that works against freedom of expression, well, we don’t have the right to drive people crazy thanks to freedom of expression.

Sure, if all of what John Trent (Sam Neill) experienced was sheer hallucination, which it was—the movie fails again in its ploy to pretend as a hopeful psychological thriller along the lines of The Innocents (1961, a bona-fide classic). With such an intriguing plot—books of a bestselling horror writer driving his readers crazy—Carpenter fails to hit the mark, big time. Poor writing and ineffective treatment would be the reasons. It could have been a masterpiece as a psychological thriller, or a surreal drama, yet the monstrous horror on screen allows few chills, but ultimately fails to invoke any sense of connection with the characters or the story.

Viewers will realize that sanity is fragile, and at any given moment, we could lose it. Sure, that’s a nice start, but what next? Carpenter sends us to the allegorical town of Hobb’s End just to manifest his brilliance as a master scarecrow—scaring us with disgusting beings (Lovecraftian elements) and presenting a redundant drama on the possibility of people ardently believing in the myths present in horror books.

Horror writers do have a knack of deluding themselves with what they write. Stephen Kind openly admitted how he had nearly lost himself while writing The Shining. Here, the writer Sutter Cane seems to lose his own grip of reality, but how is that supposed to make sense when the character he bases the book on, John Trent, himself is lost in a hallucinatory whirlpool?

We get it – they’re all insane and end up believing in what they read and write. Cane is taken over by the monsters he creates and Trent by the monsters he reads in those books. But it’s not just stimulating, let alone enjoying or thought provoking. When you look at Carpenter’s previous classics, especially Halloween (1978) and The Thing (1982), it’s amazing how he loses the plot here.

What makes this even worse is how Carpenter toys with themes of duality and phenomenology in his chaotic world. Trent experiences the world, as it is, through Cane’s books and by the end, he starts seeing the world that way. If there’s a positive in the underbelly of Madness, Carpenter highlights the line between reading a book (or, watching a movie) and being obsessed with it. And that’s the sad part because the premise is so damn good, the movie could have been foundational.


In the Mouth for Madness can be scary at times. Carpenter masterfully creates an uneasy atmosphere and his control over the visual elements is excellent. Yet, that’s where it ends. With a weak script (written by Michael De Luca) and formulaic execution, Madness is just madness from Carpenter. It’s one of those movies that you either love or hate. I didn’t like it, but I know a handful that would, so all is not lost.

Madness is twisted and sickening and that’s about it to say. Maybe it doesn’t help that I don’t find the works of Lovecraft intriguing either, but hey – at least you could try.


Chungking Express (1994) – The Complexities of Being Human



Cop 663 – Tony Chiu Wai Leung
Faye – Faye Wong
Cop 223 – Takeshi Kaneshiro
Woman in Blonde Wig – Brigitte Lin
Air Hostess – Valerie Chow
Manager of the Café – Chen Jinquan

Imagine a city with a robustness of an industrial menace scattered with people from various cultures and races; imagine the crowd making it impossible to breathe the air of divinity. Imagine yet again—feeling lost and lonely around the branches of this unforgiving dystopia, or now, imagine just once more being in Wong Kar Wai’s world of Hong Kong through his vision unifying with his imagination, and his unraveling of life in Asia’s city of dreams… Two allegorical stories wrapped in one film, Chungking Express expresses the cold and distant nature of Hong Kong. People confined within the physical throngs with an ethereal ambiguity—fighting for their own space, yet lost in the emptiness that is truly within this world. This very unforgiving lust of the city to gulp within every micro emotion flying takes the stage for an abstruse drama from a filmmaker who has created his own niche as a master of storytelling.

Two men in uniform, Cops 223 and 663, face the same predicament—floating in love and tragedy. Both with their eyes set on finding solace. Seeking a companion to share their life with, to give love, and receive some in return, both these cops find somebody, but what comes with that somebody is hardly what they bargained for. Cop 223 finds a companion in an underworld woman, while Cop 663 receives redemption through a free-spirited intrigue; quirky, eccentric, and adorable.


Chungking Express features Wong Kar Wai’s hyperkinetic camera movement, angles, and uniquely executed shots building a bizarre and anticipatory feeling in the viewer. The burry motion images used appropriately and the magnificent utilization of a pause-play, background time lapse reveal the psychology of the characters in a far more convincing manner—using it as a vehicle to express the emotions of the movie through smooth images and filming. That would, of course, only compliment the overall flow of the movie if the movie was backed by a strong storyline and astute execution, which hardly needs to be exemplified for Wong Kar Wai’s unique presentation of a dysfunctional mystery is rich as a story and effective as a film.

Complex characters, real world, real events, and simple stories; the motto has always been the same for Wong Kar Wai. Using the same formula, a second nature for the director, Chungking Express has distinct, multi-layered characters that resemble real-life people giving it a tangible feel that is backed significantly by some of the subplots like the drug smuggling, the method they use, and the underworld mafia at a bigger scale joined together by the emotional vulnerabilities and hollowness of the central characters at its intrinsic core. The lead characters in the movie, both of them, go through the same problem, but in a different world, with a different standpoint. It’s a problem everybody goes through in some form. The perspectives may vary, but the nub of the problem barely does. The only facet that could separate the two personalities would be the inherent desire that forces them act in their own ways—mild as it may seem, subtle as it may appear, but it surely carries a mammoth of sentimental force behind, which is what Wong Kar Wai illustrates rather coldly and accurately in putting across the lives of the characters on the screen.


A movie such as Chungking Express, a different mystery all together, is another color in the world of filmmaking that needs to be cherished and decorated. For World Cinema, it’s matchless, it’s a gem. While not remotely possible for a movie as erratic, layered, and whimsical as Chungking Express to garner a universal acceptance, but it has in many ways and that’s the barometer of true success for the movie. As if it’s not obvious, Chungking Express is damn good—a brute cinema that may appear experimental for global audiences, but is nothing more than a pragmatic and ideological, even minuscule form of cinema for somebody like Wong Kar Wai.

The story of does dip a little somewhere in the middle. The second story gets a bit slow just before the ending, but the first story is a practical cinematic delight. Whilst the second story is the real story and is much deeper and mature exploring human sentiments, the first one might be a little more entertaining even though it’s surficial. The contrast would be in the dramatics; the first one is closer to a fast-paced thriller, whilst the second one is a profound drama on life. Combine the two as fables on life and living of life in Hong Kong, and you have a metaphorical account of what constitutes of life in its fluid state of fragmentation.


An exclusive presentation, Chungking Express is a brutal demolishment of urban life and an epic from the director. Twenty years has passed since Chungking Express hit the screens, and with time, it has only grown as a movie, a stylish form of instinctive cinema that remains as puzzling today as it was back then. Wong Kar Wai has perhaps toppled Chungking Express with his platonic In the Mood for Love (2000), but this remains the original classic from a filmmaker who neither treats cinema as a commerce or art—for him, cinema is just cinema; the revealing of a simple story through the lens of characters who are no different than the ones you would find in real life. For a fan of World Cinema, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie. Stylish, raw, and deep—Chungking Express in a nutshell.