review for In the Mouth of Madness on AllMovie

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
by Karl Williams review

Typically for a John Carpenter film, this chiller starts out strong but then sags in the second act until it's limping badly into the narrative home stretch. There probably isn't a director working in this genre who is so gracefully able to repeatedly build up a strong head of steam, story wise, only to see it dissipate in a disappointing second half. Sam Neill looks as perplexed as the audience, while Jürgen Prochnow is his assuredly creepy self (the actor seems born to portray Nazis and vampires). The story is a familiar one, the same ground having been trod before by Stephen King and many others in both literature and film, so the script, cribbed liberally by studio exec Michael De Luca from H.P. Lovecraft (sans credit, no less) gets zero points for originality. The offbeat premise of making an insurance investigator the protagonist instead of the imaginative novelist who's causing the onscreen mayhem is a nifty idea, however, and could have yielded a seriously interesting piece. Instead, as Neill's character begins to experience the same events over and over again, viewers may find themselves catching a quick nap, the repetitive narrative device having been done ad nauseam in numerous television series episodes. Although he's got his devotees, Carpenter could and should be our finest living horror director, but isn't. As proven by In the Mouth of Madness (1995), and most of his other work in the same decade, the man needs to take a night class in screenwriting; too many of his films are built on terrific ideas but leave fans squirming with impatience by the drawn-out finale.