For all the Lovecraftian schlock and rubber monster japery that follows, it’s this self-narrating component which distinguishes In the Mouth of Madness, at times pulling the film into Dennis Potter country. ‘Cane’s writing me,’ Styles tells Trent during a botched getaway. ‘He wants me to kiss you. It’s good for the book.’ This combination of B-movie fun and dizzying meta-fiction makes the film something of a companion piece to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, another mid-90's tale of lowbrow storytelling intruding onto the everyday. I’d hazard it’s also one of the reasons why the film, although critically panned in the U.S. on its original release (‘a really bad movie’ was how The Washington Post summed it up), was relatively well received in Europe with Cahiers du Cinéma even going so far as to list it as one of 1995’s best films.
[Minor errata: as you can see, I chose John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. In hindsight, I’m not sure Mouth is all that underrated per se. It has had its vocal fans, including a number of professional critics, and – as often seems to be the case with once-maligned horror films – has attained a strong cult standing. In other words, it’s a film which has its audience. Prince of Darkness (1987) – a quieter, smaller-budget affair, lost between the action-fantasy bluster of Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and They Live (1988) – would perhaps be a more deserving candidate from Carpenter’s back-catalogue for the title of Most Underrated.]