(director: John Carpenter; screenwriter: Michael De Luca; cinematographer: Gary B. Kibbe; editors:Edward Warschilka; music: John Carpenter, Jim Lang; cast: Sam Neill (John Trent), Julie Carmen (Linda Styles), Jurgen Prochnow (Sutter Cane), David Warner (Dr. Wrenn), Charlton Heston (Jackson Harglow), Conrad Bergschneider (ax-maniac); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Sandy King; New Line Cinema; 1994)

An oddball homage pic to HP Lovecraft, while at the same time spoofing Stephen King.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An oddball homage pic to HP Lovecraft, while at the same time spoofing Stephen King. The derivative horror pic directed by John Carpenter(“They Live”/“Halloween”/”Escape from LA”) gets off to an innovative start before becoming completely muddled in the make belief world of literature. It wants us to believe that a novel can lead the reader into being a demon, which is the theme of the film’s author’s latest work. Writer Michael De Luca wrestles with this disquieting irrational theme. It’s a missing author horror story that fails to keep things from going off the rails when it eventually moves into supernatural turf.

Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow) is the bestselling Stephen King-like horror story author, who is missing just before he was to deliver his latest manuscript. Publisher Harglow (Charlton Heston) has hired insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) to find him.

While on the road in misty New England, an ax-wielding lunatic (Conrad Bergschneider) smashes the plate-glass window of the restaurant where Trent (Sam Neill) is sitting and surprisingly the maniac turns out to be Sutter Cane’s literary agent (Conrad Bergschneider). The investigator is intrigued and decides to pursue the author in Hobbs End, the fictional town featured in the author’s stories.

The menacing tale is told in flashback, after the investigator is forcefully brought into an asylum and has difficulty convincing the resident psychiatrist, Dr. Wrenn (David Warner), that he’s sane.

From the flashbacks we learn about Cane’s spooky literary world, as the investigator teams up with publishing exec Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) to track down where Cane might be hiding. What he finds is the author living in a secret literary world of rotting children, where only the investigator seems to be unaware of the town’s bewildering secret.A secret world so unconvincing that it failed to get me to take an imaginary leap into all its repetitive rock-video-surreal nightmare sequences.