Monday, June 12, 2017

Only now does it occur to me... IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS

Only now does it occur to me... that John Carpenter's IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994) is such a wealth of creatively horrific visuals and ideas that one of its throwaway scares (not even really a scare, per se, moreso a morbid detail) became, in 2017, the entire basis of the marketing campaign for a $125 million Hollywood blockbuster.

I'm speaking here of THE MUMMY reboot (starring Tom Cruise), a film I must admit I have very little interest in seeing. However, I couldn't help but notice that the creepy "double-iris" of their Mummy has become quite ubiquitous:

Upon seeing this poster on the subway, I immediately thought of IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS––particularly the scene where a mad axeman looms behind Sam Neill and Bernie Casey outside a Manhattan diner.

Toward the scene's conclusion, while the axeman is menacing a frightened Sam Neill, we get a closer look at his eyes, which contain the double-iris effect:

What's funny is that this scene is so tightly constructed and confident in its "horror in broad daylight" premise that the whole "double-iris" aspect is probably only the fourth or fifth scariest detail of the entire tableau.

I reviewed IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS at length seven years ago (seven years?!), and for those who haven't seen it, the entirety of IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is similarly layered––it has a sort of "throw in every scary thing you can think of and the kitchen sink" sensibility, but it really thrives on it. It's a mosaic of nightmare and lunacy that is incredibly focused; every element is carefully curated to fit the bigger picture, both thematically and visually. The double-iris is such a small detail that it's possible many people who have seen the film may have forgotten about it by the time the credits rolled. And yet, that's the power of Carpenter's films––from the spider-leg head in THE FACULTY (referencing THE THING), to CHILD'S PLAY 3's "Colonel Cochrane" (referencing HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH) to DAZED AND CONFUSED paraphrasing the best line ("I've come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass...") from THEY LIVE, etc., etc., apparently Carpenter minutiae have been enthralling Hollywood for decades.

Note: it's also possible that THE MUMMY designers were inspired by DOUBLE VISION (2002), or something else entirely of which I'm unaware, but I'm going to go ahead and continue assuming that John Carpenter is the center of the universe.


Cannon said...

Let me see if I can give 2017's The Mummy its just deserts. First, it has no story, only a cartoon-level plot exposited ad nauseam, and inflated with action stunt FX-spectacle à la Mummy: Impossible. The filmmaking is impersonal and mechanical. As a moviegoing experience, it has no class, no finesse, no subtlety, no real genre sophistication of any kind. It's really fuckin' stupid.

And I liked it.

These things happen.

The schlock factor is high and there's an odd sort of glory in its franchise desperation; such a film dumbed down for international markets achieves its own special median or even, dare I say, liberty. I'm not suggesting a 'so bad, it's good' charm but rather a 'free toy spoon inside/you must be this tall to ride' county fair standard of entertainment. Sofia Boutella evokes some kind of Paula Abdul costumed epic dance video and there's a point where Russell 'Mr. Hyde' Crowe goes ham-cockney with JJCS film review potential.

As for your double-iris theory, it can be argued that this movie likewise barrows venues from Hooper's Lifeforce concerning space vampires (swapped-out for sexy mummy) in London. It's also just as likely that the whole thing is simply a proxy interpretation of Cruise's thetan powers.

Sean Gill said...


Fair enough! Perhaps I'll check it out on DVD; Lifeforce-Mummy Paula Abdul vs. 10th level Thetan sounds like something I could handle.