Psychedelic Alan Wake 2 is just as brooding as the white-sheet Halloween sky. It’s the ideal time of year to play the survival-horror sequel to 2010’s Alan Wake, in which the titular novelist and protagonist seals himself away in a dark purgatory. Now, in Alan Wake 2, Alan can warp reality with his words, which recalls John Carpenter’s 1995 weirdo classic In the Mouth of Madness. I’d say there are few better movies to pair your AW2 playthrough with—especially because Madness is now streaming for free.
The theme here is Writers Gone Wild. Both AW2 and Madness feature a grossly successful male horror writer (Alan Wake and villain Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow), respectively) who is just as sullen as he is proud. These men are saturated with genius, their fans and inner monologue inform them, and the earth becomes so heavy with it that reality starts bending to their will. People, innocent and mean ones alike, start falling into Alan’s and Sutter’s hands. And sometimes they die.
The tragedies Alan writes fill him with anguish and a sort of auto cannibalistic introspection. But for Sutter in Carpenter’s batshit movie, death is fucking awesome.
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He loves shoveling it onto Madness’ main character, the insurance investigator John (Possession’s Sam Neill, his eyes as wide as ever), who’s tasked with pinpointing his whereabouts and retrieving his manuscript for most of Madness’ runtime. It’s a routine investigation, but it quickly becomes dense with death—that’s what you get from a writer like Alan who enjoys manufacturing fear more than mystery; fear cuts to the chase.
For all its self-serious mania, though, Madness is solidly ridiculous. At least Carpenter—who facilitated legendary, sweaty special effects for The Thing (1982)—does his best to tinge all the movie’s gore with yellowish nausea, but you might find some of it more bizarre than bone-shaking scary. But In the Mouth of Madness’ uniquely nasty silliness will make a lasting impression on you. And you’ll get an even more multidimensional look at Alan Wake 2 than the fourth-wall-axing game gives willingly.
In the Mouth of Madness is streaming for free on YouTube Movies and Tubi.