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Film / In the Mouth of Madness

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Ever lost yourself in a good book?

A reality is just what we tell each other it is.

The third installment of John Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy" (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness), In the Mouth of Madness (1994) explores reality, fiction, and the thin, horrific line that separates the two.

John Trent (Sam Neill), an insurance fraud investigator, has just been placed in an insane asylum. Months earlier, he was hired to find bestselling horror writer Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow). Cane has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, but his publisher Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) thinks it might just be a stunt to drum up support for his next book, In the Mouth of Madness.

When Trent finds that the covers of Cane's books seem to become a map to the supposedly fictional town of Hobb's End, he and Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), who works for the publisher, decide to go there and find Cane. What they find, however, is something much worse.

This film gives examples of:

  • Agent Scully:
    • Trent, at first.
    • Dr. Wren also comes off as one of these, since he dismisses Trent’s story as the ravings of a madman, though he seems to be reconsidering after Saperstein asks him “Do you read Sutter Cane?” when he tells him about Trent’s apparent delusions.
  • Alien Geometries: When Linda Styles investigates the interior of Sutter Cane's (who is basically an amalgam of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft) evil church in Hobb's End, she opens a door to find a small unoccupied room with a typewriter. After she turns around and opens the door again, it's now a giant room with Cane typing in the far corner.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The final note of the film is very ambiguous about what exactly is real and what's not. Is all of this Trent's mind finally snapping or is he part of Cane's fictional universe? Was he always part of said universe or was he overtaken by it? Is he watching the adaptation of In the Mouth of Madness or is he in the adaptation (or both, somehow)? Did reality ever exist at all, given we know we're watching a fictional movie? And most importantly, are we part of it?.
  • And I Must Scream: Everyone in the movie is a work of fiction in Sutter Cane's latest novel, and everything they do is done entirely against their own will, because they have none.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Cane sics several of them on Simon and his cohorts as they try to confront him at the church. They're surprisingly effective considering the men are angry and toting rifles or maybe not, considering Cane literally wrote into reality what would happen.
  • Anything but That!: "Oh, no. Not the Carpenters, too." Also a more subtle bit of Self-Deprecation, considering the director of this movie is John Carpenter.
  • Apocalypse How: Though it's left deliberately vague precisely what's happening, precisely how bad it is, and precisely how real it is.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Do you read Sutter Cane?"
    • "I can see you/He sees you."
    • "Nobody pulls my strings."
  • Artistic License – Religion: Overlapping with Writers Cannot Do Math. Sutter Cane tries to convince John Trent that his horror books will to all intents and purposes become the new reality because his readers will believe in it, boasting that he has more followers than people who believe in The Bible and that his books have been translated into 18 languages. There are around 2 billion Christians in the world (and around half of the world population if every Abrahamic religion is counted) and the Bible has actually been translated into either hundreds or thousands of languages depending on how you measure it.
  • As Himself: Viewers will get a Freeze-Frame Bonus if they examine the poster for the In-Universe version of In the Mouth Of Madness, as it is a New Line Cinema production starring John Trent and Linda Styles.
  • Author Avatar: Literally; Cane might just be an avatar of whatever extra-reality force he has become/is channeling.
  • Author Powers: Cane's powers have become so vast that the entire world is his story.
  • Ax-Crazy: Literally. Some characters just pick up an ax and start swinging after reading Cane's book.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Trent starts out as a cool and collected insurance investigator who prides himself on being the Only Sane Man. By the end of his stay in Hob’s End, he’s a deranged, paranoid wreck of a man.
  • Bedlam House: At the start of the film, we find Trent locked up in a mental asylum, from which he tells the rest of the story prior to his arrival there to a psychiatrist.
  • Behind the Black: How Linda and Trent missed the 800 foot tall church in Hobb's End.
  • Beneath the Mask: Trent acts like a collected, snarky Hardboiled Detective, but as he goes through more and more horrific experiences, it becomes clear that he’s really a stubborn man who can’t accept that what’s happening is real due to his firm belief in what reality is.
  • Bigger Than Jesus: Cane says more people believe in his novels than in The Bible.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The church. On the outside, it's spooky enough, what with its rural New England location, but inside, it turns into a full-blown Eldritch Location.
  • Body Horror: Going nuts is one thing, but it's possible that Cane's book can even turn people into Eldritch Abominations.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: "Did I ever tell you my favorite color is blue?" Every character's eyes are blue in closeup, whether or not the actor/actress actually has blue eyes. Not to mention that there's a certain sickly shade of blue that seems to occur everywhere in the film, once you start noticing it.
  • Brown Note: The whole premise. Cane's book clearly does terrible things to readers and, perhaps, the entire world.
  • The Cameo: Peter Jason as a fraudster Trent catches in the act at the beginning of the film.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Trent startles awake from his alleyway nightmare. In fact, the movie features nesting Catapult Nightmares.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Sutter Cane states clearly that this is how he gained the power to alter reality. While he at one point says that it's the Eldritch Abominations behind the door in the church that guided him, it's more implied that it was the belief in Cane's books that made the monsters real in the first place.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Once Trent has the manuscript, he can't get rid of it. Even when he destroys it, it reappears very quickly.
  • Confessional: Insane author Sutter Cane discusses the power of faith over reality with Trent while they sit on opposite sides of a confessional.
  • Composite Character: Sutter Cane is H. P. Lovecraft with the mass readership of Stephen King.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: In the end, the human race is doomed to be destroyed/mutated into insane playthings of the Old Ones. Maybe.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Every single character in the story. That's because they're just characters in Sutter Cane's book.
  • Cosmic Retcon: Essentially the entire movie.
    • Linda Styles may never even have existed. Trent may only have begun existing when Cane wrote him. Hobb's End seems to become real/unreal purely through Cane's words.
    • Finally, it's even possible that the movie itself may have been written/created by Sutter Cane.
  • Credits Gag: Right after the "No animal was harmed during the making of this film" blurb, they have a slightly different report on the humans.
  • Creepy Basement: Mrs. Pickman's basement.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: The picture in Mrs. Pickman's foyer.
  • Creepy Child: The children of Hobb's End are slowly turning into homicidal monsters and mutilate a dog.
  • Cthulhumanoid: The figures in the Creepy Changing Painting in Mrs. Pickman's foyer. Though at that point, they barely qualify as humanoid anymore.
  • Cry Laughing: See Laughing Mad below.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Trent, at least before the façade starts to slip.
  • Death of the Author: Played with as one of the themes. For example, is it possible for a character to act independently of the author even while the book is still being written? (Stranger Than Fiction explored this idea as well.) invoked
  • Defictionalization: This happens In-Universe to the town of Hobb's End And possibly to Linda Styles (for a while, anyway) and Trent too.
  • The Determinator: Trent doesn't really give a crap if Cane is God. He's still going to tell him, "Up yours."
  • Didn't Think This Through: As Cane’s agent learns, strolling through the street with an axe while covered in blood and taking your sweet time in killing one man will just get you shot by the police.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A lot of the film is a metaphor for writing (much like the book Misery). For example, Linda being written out is akin to an author deciding a character isn't working.
  • Downer Ending: The film ends with the Apocalypse, as the entire world is attacked by Lovecraftian horrors and a large chunk of the population falls into insanity. Of course, if reality is relative anyway, then does this ending even matter/happen?
  • Dramatic Thunder: Thunder can be heard during Trent's stay in the mental asylum.
  • Dream Within a Dream: The protagonist dreams of witnessing a cop beating a graffiti artist in a dark alley, an event he witnessed earlier that night, but now the cop is a deformed monster. He wakes up... and sees the monster-cop sitting next to him, and wakes up again.
  • Driven to Madness: Enforced. The Old Ones operate on Clap Your Hands If You Believe rules, so making a sufficiently large number of people insane enough to accept their existence is basically their form of colonisation. Cane and his writings are simply their main vehicle for this.
  • Driven to Suicide: Simon, the man leading the angry mob at the church, blows his own head off.
    Simon: I have to, he [Sutter Cane] wrote me this way.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Old Ones. When they enter reality through Sutter Cane's book, they herald the end of humankind.
  • Eldritch Location: Hobb's End, but especially the interior of the church.
  • Endless Corridor: The passageway that leads back from Hobb's End to the real world.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Sutter Cane's last book on Hobb's End prominently featured the end of the world as people turned into monsters and reality became host to otherworldly horrors. It turns out that he used Trent to spread this disease throughout the real world by retrieving his book. Society is well on its way to total collapse by the end.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Trent’s first chronological scene has him use logical deduction to figure out a guy was pulling an insurance fraud, showing his heavy reliance on logic and his skepticism of everyone around him.
    • Cane’s is him appearing before an angry mob after luring a possessed child into the church, pleasantly smiling at the mob before sticking a pack of Dobermans in them, showing how he is a Faux Affably Evil Humanoid Abomination.
    • Simon’s comes when he screams at Cane to give him back his son, showing how he is keenly aware of his fictional nature and his Papa Wolf tendencies.
  • Everytown, America: Hobb's End qualifies, at least at the beginning.
    Trent: Main Street, U.S.A.
  • Expy Coexistence: Cane is clearly heavily based on Stephen King yet King is also mentioned as existing in this universe (in fact, Cane became even more popular than him).
  • Face–Heel Turn: Linda, after reading In the Mouth of Madness.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Sutter Cane.
  • Fictional Document: All of Cane's books, most notably In the Mouth of Madness.
  • Film Noir: Shades of Neo-Noir, with Trent being the classic Hardboiled Detective (down to a chain-smoking habit) and Linda having elements of a Femme Fatale.
  • The Film of the Book: In-Universe, Cane's publishing company sold the movie rights to Cane's latest novel. Trent watches it in a theater at the very end, and it turns out to be... the very movie we've just finished watching.
  • Fingore: In a Nightmare Sequence, a character gets his fingers cut off.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During the car trip in the first act, Linda foreshadows (or predicts) everything that's going to happen to Trent by the end of the movie.
    • Linda’s love of Cane’s books foreshadows her transformation into another role of Cane’s deranged followers.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: In-Universe, Simon seems to be the only character to realize that he's a character in Cane's new book.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: It is not a coincidence that the title of this film is also the title of Cane's insidious book and of its film adaptation.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When John looks through the tear in reality we can see he's actually looking through a tear in the pages. It's actually excerpts from Sutter's previous novel, The Hobb's End Horror.
    • Also, the couple in the Creepy Changing Painting. Them turning their faces towards Linda while she's looking at it isn't the only thing that's off about them...
  • Genre Savvy: Having read Cane's books, the characters know what to expect. Whether they choose to believe that the books correspond to reality is another matter.
  • Giving Up on Logic: A dark example happens to Trent at the end, who snaps and gives up any pretense of being anything other than fictional.
  • A God Am I: Zig-Zagged with Sutter Cane. In this case, he may very well be, as his writings have granted him the ability to re-cast the entirety of reality through his novels. On the other hand, it's hinted he might be actually in service to a host of Lovecraftion terrors that are slowly invading the world, or maybe he created them. It's a very confusing film.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Trent, finally realizing that he was a Sutter Cane character all along. Presumably everyone else driven mad by the book/movie had this same revelation.
  • Going in Circles: On the way to Hobbe's End, Styles passes the same boy on a bike multiple times. Later on, Trent tries to drive out of town repeatedly but ends up right where he he started.
  • Groin Attack: When he's being taken in at the mental asylum, Trent attacks one of the orderlies this way.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: When Hobb's End really goes to hell and people start mutating into monsters all around Trent, he decides to get the hell out of dodge and jumps in his car. Each time he tries to leave town, however, the godlike Cane resets Trent to just before he left. The only option left to him is go right through the ax-wielding mob of townspeople.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Cane gives one to Trent about the nature of creation, and how belief fuels the existence of his works. Trent, ever the skeptic, will have none of it.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Trent, complete with a chain-smoking addiction.
  • Hassle-Free Hotwire: When Trent tries to leave Hobb's End, his brainwashed partner swallows his car keys as they're being surrounded by a mob of ax-wielding townspeople. He uses a screwdriver to dig into the base of the steering wheel and activate his car that way.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Trent somehow manages to fall asleep through a series of noticeably supernatural events, including the road disappearing and the car flying through some weird clouds, then hitting a surface that ends up being the bridge at the entrance of Hobb's End, and it's broad daylight when they come out of the bridge. Only then does Trent wake up, and Linda is too terrified to explain what just happened.
  • Hell Hotel: Mrs. Pickman's hotel. No guests (apparently) were murdered, but she becomes possessed before mutating into a monster and murdering her husband.
  • How We Got Here: Almost the entire story is told In Medias Res by Trent to a psychiatrist at a mental asylum.
  • Humanoid Abomination: It's pretty safe to say that Sutter Cane is no longer entirely human by the time Trent finds him. His reality warping powers — along with his Red Right Hand when he shows Linda the manuscript — kinda gives this away.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: In Trent's nightmare, one of the monster people eats part of a person they just axed to death.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Hobb is an old English word for "devil."
  • In Medias Res: The film begins with Trent's commitment to the mental asylum, as he relays How We Got Here to Wren.
  • Incoming Ham: Simon’s introduction has him bellow at the top of his lungs for Cane to give him back his son.
  • Insurance Fraud: It's Trent's job to investigate cases of this, and it's the first thing (outside the opening scene) we see him doing: A guy burns down his warehouse of fur coats, but it turns out he just stashed them away and gave one to his wife... and another to his mistress. Catching both those ladies in their coats gave the guy away.
  • Invincible Villain: Cane is basically God, at least as far as the other characters are concerned.
  • Jump Scare: Used extensively.
  • Kick the Dog: Quite literally. Our introduction to the terrifying children of Hobb's End shows them running after a dog. The next time we see them, the dog has had one of its legs ripped off and is limping around forlornly.
  • Kill It with Fire: Trent tries to do this to Cane’s manuscript. Doesn't work.
  • Logical Weakness: A horde of mutated townsfolk block Trent’s car. When his attempts to escape the town by driving in the opposite direction fail, he just drives through them.
  • Large Ham: Simon, the leader of the posse at the church, and Saperstein, one of the head doctors at the mental asylum.
  • Laughing Mad: Trent at the end of the film when he stumbles upon a movie theater playing John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness (yes, the film he is inside of) and promptly snaps. It devolves into pained sobs before the credits roll.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Dr. Wren asks what will happen to those who don't read (and therefore won't read Cane's book), Trent answers: "There's a movie!" He's not kidding, and that link is extremely appropriate; the movie happens to be the one you're watching.
  • Light Is Not Good: Sutter Cane, a godlike horror writer who uses his works to spread chaos and insanity, emanates light during his conversation with Trent about the power of belief in the Confessional.
  • Lovecraft Country: Hobb's End, New Hampshire. The film is inspired by, and contains Shout-Out after Shout-Out to H. P. Lovecraft. Hell, a nightmare sequence even has a Continuity Cameo from Cthulhu.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Have Cane's books triggered a mass delusion that's causing more and more people to think they're being taken over by monstrous demons? Or are monstrous demons really taking over people who have read Sutter Cane?
  • Meaningful Background Event: Well, a radio broadcast, but during the car trip there are two talking heads debating a "disease" that seems to have sprung from Kane's work; the beginnings of the Old Ones' infection, perhaps?
  • Medium Awareness: The Movie, from both an in-universe and meta-sense.
  • Mistaken for Disease: By the end of the film, the outbreaks of violence and madness across the world have yet to be explained by health officials, as none of them believe John Trent's warning that the books of popular horror novelist Sutter Cane are driving readers insane. Even when readers begin to suffer hideous mutations, the Old Ones return to rule the world, and society itself collapses into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, authorities are still calling it an epidemic and advising people to distance themselves to prevent the spread of infection. Needless to say, it doesn't work: the film ends with Cane victorious and the human race completely overtaken by his masterpiece.
  • Mind Screw: What's the difference between fiction and reality? According to this movie, nothing, up to and including the movie itself.
  • The Mistress: An Insurance Fraud scam is found out when a guy claims a warehouse full of fur coats was supposedly destroyed, but he kept the coats, giving some to his wife, who ratted on him when it turned out he gave some to his mistress.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Cane's eyes during the mock-confessional.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Sutter Cane is the most popular (horror) writer who ever lived and he's the villain no less. At its core, the film looks at what the awesome power of writing means to the characters who occupy the novels themselves.
  • Name of Cain: Sutter Cane.
  • Nightmare Dreams: Trent has an extensive one that takes place in an alleyway at night.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Played with. The characters have frequent surreal and horrifying visions that they then wake up from, but given that it's in the context of reality and fiction merging and the waking world (insofar as the viewer can distinguish such a thing) getting weirder and weirder, describing them as simply 'bad dreams' seems a dangerous oversimplification.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Sutter Cane is an obvious stand-in for Stephen King, although he also have quite a bit of H. P. Lovecraft mixed in. King is also explicitly named in a dialogue as a writer existing in-universe.
  • No Fourth Wall: An in-universe example that breaks through two fourth walls. At the end, Trent views the film you are watching, only disjointed and cut up.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Stiles, already unhinged and possessed by Cane's influence, tries to seduce Trent in the hotel room to keep him from leaving. He isn't interested.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Cane's ultimate reveal is just a black void.
  • Noticing the Fourth Wall: At the end of his stay in Hobb's End, Trent meets with Sutter Cane. Cane reveals that Trent is in fact one of his characters. Trent refuses to accept this, exactly how Cane had written him.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Trent is in the insane asylum for killing a Sutter Cane fan with an axe, but David Warner's character seems to think he's only pretending to be insane, perhaps to avoid a criminal trial. It's just as likely he's pretending to be insane in order to stay safe inside the asylum.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Harglow reveals that The Film of the Book is coming out next month, Trent jumps out of his chair and backs away.
    • Dr. Wrenn has this reaction when Saperstein asks him “Do you read Sutter Cane?”, revealing that Trent’s story was possibly true.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sam Neill's real accent occasionally slips through, particularly when he's arguing with Julie Carmen.
  • Only Sane Man: Trent insists that he knows what reality is, and to hell with what anyone else says. He gives up the pretense at the end. Although he really is the only sane man, because that's how Cane wrote him. Discussed by Cane: "Always looking for the con... even now you're trying to rationalize."
    • Arguably deconstructed, since the film examines how lonely it would be to be the only bastion of sanity, especially if everyone else had gone around the bend. Trent’s Final Fate is to be the only (somewhat) normal person left in a world gone mad.
  • Phlegmings: Demonstrated by the Old Ones when they pursue Trent into the portal.
  • The Plague / The Virus: People beginning their slide into madness show plague-like symptoms of open sores and wonky eyes.
  • Police Brutality: As Trent walks through an alleyway at night, he catches a cop beating up a homeless man. He leaves it alone, but the cop is ready to dish out some more. He later sees a nightmare of the same scene.
  • Postmodernism: The barrier between the film's fictional universe, the Show Within a Show and our actual reality are repeatedly tested and in the end, apparently broken.
  • Precision F-Strike: While Trent is trying to flee Hobb's End, an axe-wielding mutant stops in front of him to yell, "Fuck you!"
  • Pretty in Mink: A guy burned down a warehouse of fur coats to collect the insurance. He was caught when it turned out he kept the coats safe and gave some to his wife...and his mistress.
  • Reading Ahead in the Script: When Linda Styles realizes that Sutter Cane's latest novel is in fact their own reality, she reads ahead to see the ending for herself. The revelation turns her into one of Cane's minions, and she's later retconned out of the story.
  • Reality Warper: Sutter Cane becomes so powerful that he can alter reality to suit his whims. According to Word of God, Cane only has the same powers that any other writer has over their creation. The entire film is taking place inside one of his books.
  • Recurring Dreams: Trent begins to suffer from these. Turned out Cane was just writing a little Foreshadowing into proceedings.
  • Red Right Hand: Readers of the books of hack horror writer Sutter Cane go insane and develop strange physical afflictions, like a second pupil in their iris or bleeding from their eyes. And berserk homicidal tendencies, of course. Over the time, these minor afflictions develop into serious bodily mutations, including tentacles, distended jaws, and reversible joints.
    • Cane himself has one, in the form of a monster on the back of his head that's only shown once, possibly placed there to hint at his true nature.
  • Ret-Gone: Linda Styles, who was apparently written out by Cane.
  • Rewriting Reality: Hobb's End was written into existence by Sutter Cane, who also produces a number of retcons that remove a character from existence and reshuffle an entire sequence of events within the film. By the end of the film, the entire world has apparently been absorbed by Cane's latest novel.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Notably, Trent starts out the movie having made his own filled with drawn crosses with just a single black crayon. It's even lampshaded by Dr. Wren who thinks that Trent isn't as mad as people think.
    "The crosses are a nice touch. They'd almost have to keep you in here after seeing these, wouldn't they?"
  • Rule of Scary: Hobb's End runs on this.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Essentially the entire movie is based around this. As Trent gets closer to the truth, holes start to appear in his reality and mundane things become nightmarish.
    • It’s vaguely implied that the reason Cane is helping free the Old Ones is because they had slowly driven him insane over the past few years.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lots to H. P. Lovecraft. Mrs. Pickman's name is a reference to the story "Pickman's Model," and the titles of Cane's books resemble those of Lovecraft stories. The movie's own title is vaguely reminiscent of At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. An excerpt read out from the in-Verse manuscript of In The Mouth Of Madness is strongly reminiscent of "The Outsider" and "The Rats in the Walls". Furthermore, an excerpt from Cane's book The Hobb's End Horror directly quotes Lovecraft's final story, "The Haunter of the Dark".
      This place had once been the seat of an evil older than mankind and wider than the known universe.
    • Sutter Cane is basically a fictional version of Stephen King, though with quite a few elements from H. P. Lovecraft. It's likely not a coincidence that characters being successful authors themselves is another King staple. Cujo also makes a cameo.
    • Hobb's End is also a reference to Quatermass and the Pit.
    • Saperstein is the name of the Satanist doctor in Rosemary's Baby.
  • Smug Snake: Saperstein.
  • Spooky Painting: Mrs. Pickman's hotel lounge is adorned by a painting of a couple standing besides a lake. Every time Trent takes a look at it again, the couple transform more and more into shrieking human/tree hybrids.
  • Stepford Smiler: Mr. Saperstein. It’s heavily implied at the end that, despite his Smug Smiler demeanor, he’s well aware he’s one of Cane’s characters.
  • Surreal Horror: As soon as Trent reads Sutter Cane's books for clues as to his whereabouts, "reality" (if it was ever that) starts to unravel and distort into an increasingly nightmarish and disjointed jumble of vignettes and revelations that are alternately creepy and terrifying, involving madness, mutation and violence, with very little certainty as to whether it's actually happening or all in Trent's increasingly warped mind. Or both at the same time.
  • Swallow the Key: Trent tries to leave town after the people turn into monsters and take Styles (who has been corrupted by Cane by then) with him, but she swallows his car keys. Trent punches her out and hotwires the car.
  • Take That!: Trent's reaction on hearing one of the Carpenters songs being played in the insane asylum. Works on two levels, both literally with respect to the pop duo and also as a reference to the film's director John Carpenter.
    Trent: No, not the Carpenters too!
  • Tears of Blood: On those who read Cane's latest book.
  • This Is Reality: Trent insists on this and states it word for word.
    "This is reality!" *knocks on wood*
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The former Trope Namer. In this movie, you're not just in the mouth of madness; you're being chewed.
  • Title Drop: The movie title is that of Sutter Cane's latest novel. It's title dropped by Sutter Cane when he finishes the novel's manuscript for Trent to return it to the real world.
    "All done. In the Mouth of Madness."
    • Also earlier by a newscaster:
    "Police believe the riots began because the stores could not meet the demand for advance orders of Sutter Cane's latest novel, In the Mouth of Madness."
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Wielded by the corrupted inhabitants of Hobb's End as Trent is trying to leave with Styles.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Or Eldritch Abomination, in this case.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Hobb's End, of course, in the tradition of similar locals such as Castle Rock and Derry, along with Innsmouth, Dunwich, and Arkham.
  • Transformation Discretion Shot:
    • During his second appearance in the film, Sutter Cane sprouts a conjoined monster from his back right in the middle of a kiss with a freshly Mind Raped Linda Styles; though we hear the ripping sounds of the transformation, Cane appears normal up until we cut to a shot of him from the back.
    • Following exposure to Cane's eldritch novel, Linda begins to transform like the other readers, though the actual transitions are either obscured or off-camera. In one case, John Trent sees her sprouting unknown appendages through a pane of frosted glass, and catches a brief glimpse of tentacles snaking under the door, but when Linda actually opens it a cut later, she appears normal. Later, after the two of them seemingly manage to escape from Hobb's End, Trent hears crunching sounds from the car and a loud moan from Linda; moments later, Linda herself creeps into view on all fours, her body hideously contorted.
  • Treasure Map: Trent "discovers" the secret location of (the supposedly fictional) Hobb's End by piecing together a jigsaw map made from secret shapes hidden in the cover art of Cane's novels.
  • Uncertain Doom: The fates of Dr. Wren, Saperstein, and Harglow are left unclear at the end, though it’s likely Saperstein died during the attack on the asylum.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Is the entire world the product of an Unreliable Narrator?
  • Unexplained Accent: Sam Neill, David Warner, and Wilhelm von Homburg all speak in their native accents (New Zealand, England, and Germany, respectively) despite the movie being set in the United States and there are no references to any of them being expats. In von Homburg's case it's especially strange since he's supposed to be a blue-collar Hobb's End local.
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: See Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: A piece of fiction inspired by eldritch abominations, written by a madman, and merely reading or witnessing a performance drives people mad, kills them, or turns them into monsters? This is the central premise of The King in Yellow.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Either the people of Hobb's End are terrible shots, or they just don't want to shoot Cane's attack dogs.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Trent is a Hardboiled Detective straight out of a Film Noir who has stumbled straight into a Cosmic Horror Story, and refuses to believe that he isn’t in a Film Noir anymore. He made a point of reading some of Sutter Cane's stories and he still gets blind-sided by all of the horrors straight out of the books that come roaring out of the dark.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: First, Linda Styles tries this, only for Trent to not believe her. Eventually, Trent himself gets plenty of moments like this, particularly near the end.

Do you read Sutter Cane?


Video Example(s):



Sutter Cane's last horror novel has some rather unusual effects on his readers, as Linda Styles demonstrates by transforming into a Humanoid Abomination.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / EldritchTransformation

Media sources: