“More people believe in my work than believe in the Bible.”
Acting as a love letter to H. P. Lovecraft, John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness not only offers slimy tentacle creatures, mutating humanoids and hallucinatory visions, but also asks one blunt question: what is the difference between religion and insanity?
The basic premise is that a prolific horror writer named Sutter Cane becomes so popular that people start to believe what he writes is actually true. As his popularity grows, reality starts to shift and soon the world is as he wrote it. In essence, Sutter Cane, the author, becomes god and we are his followers.
If the world went insane, then how would you describe insanity? Insanity would have to become what we currently consider sanity. It’s all about how we perceive it at the time. Today we consider belief in god to be sane, but if someone believed in the king of the gods, Zeus, they would be scoffed at or put in a cushioned room.
The film presents this troubling, illusive idea not as an attack against religion, but rather, as a warning of its destructive power. What we perceive as real is constantly shifting, like tectonic plates, and we should all be weary of the earthquake to come.