Reel Toronto: In the Mouth of Madness
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Reel Toronto: In the Mouth of Madness

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
Hopefully they’ll clean up before doing the whole water cleaning thing….
In the Mouth of Madness falls somewhere in the middle of the oeuvre of horrormeister John Carpenter. We love Halloween, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live! and Escape from New York—but this ain’t in that league. One thing Carpenter did do right in this 1995 outing, however, is take advantage of some great GTA locations.

We sure do have photogenic public works buildings….
The Reel Toronto law is that if they didn’t film in the Distillery, you know they did at the RC Harris Filtration Plant. Here, it plays an insane asylum both outside…
…and in.
Before they had fireplaces, coffee stores, and sofas, book stores had books.
The story is about Sutter Cane, a Stephen King–like author whose books are driving people insane. Sam Neill plays an insurance guy who goes to track him down. He does a little research at a Coles bookstore on Yonge Street. (We’re not sure which one but are gonna guess it’s the one that used to be south of Bloor….)
The diner’s gone, and so are the axe-wielding weirdos.
He has a meeting, and an encounter with a psychopathic reader, at this eatery. It appears to be the now-defunct Hogtown Diner, once located on Front Street by the St. Lawrence Market. Other 416 locations used include High Park and the Saulter Street Library.
It ain’t Madison County. It’s barely even Waterloo.
Finally, it’s time to hit the road and check out the 905. After some highway scenes shot in King, Neill and the author’s editor arrive at the town of Hobb’s End (think King’s Castle Rock). The entrance to the town is this covered bridge, not in Vermont, but actually in West Montrose, near Waterloo.
Low angles and foreboding skies can make even happy heritage districts seem sinister.
The town itself is played by Unionville, in Markham. You can see the town’s historic train station here. It’s now been restored and it’s darned pretty if you’re taking wedding pictures. It’s right where Main Street crosses the rail tracks.
The street seems lonelier without the bikers, yuppies, and heritage preservationists out and about.
The town’s antique-store-lined Main Street (also seen in PCU and the Gilmore Girls pilot) also does its duty.
When the pope consecrated this beauty, he didn’t know what it would be used for.
One of the coolest locations is “The Black Church,” apparently located in the middle of nowhere. If you’ve ever gone up the 404 you’ve no doubt seen the Cathedral of the Transfiguration on Woodbine, north of Major Mac. Built in the 1980s by a Slovakian developer, its interior has been a neverending construction job.
You can still get shots that look more or less like this, but it is gradually getting surrounded by a new “new urbanism-style” community called Cathedraltown.
“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Newspapers are soft…and smooth.”
There’s also this creepy paperboy they keep seeing. On his way out of town, Neill encounters the kid and who is that young moppett if not Markham resident, and future Sith Lord, Hayden Christensen. You can see the little scene here.
Movies ain’t been the same since they closed the Eglinton.
Then there’s this whole deal where Neill is going crazy and he escapes from the RC Harris asylum and wanders all the way uptown to catch the latest Sutter Cane movie at the Eglinton Theatre. More horror ensues; you get the idea.
It’s got Toronto, it’s got the burbs, and it’s got Chuck Heston. What more do you want?