Sunday, June 12, 2011

MOTHER OF TEARS

2007, Dario Argento
Starring: Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeno, Adam Jones, Moran Atias

Twenty-seven years later, we finally get the conclusion to Argento's much loved "Three Mothers" trilogy. Beginning with
Suspiria in 1977, the grand-master of Italian horror set the stage for extreme violence, lush cinematography and a world full of witches and the beautiful young girls pitted unwittingly against them. Inferno (1980) continued the theme, though it is not a direct sequel. While Suspiria is basically an adult fairy tale, Inferno plunged into the sometimes confusing world of dreams. For those unfortunate unawares, the three films all deal with different though equally powerful witches: the three sisters or three mothers.

La terza madre, or "The Third Mother" as the film is originally titled, confronts Mater Lachrimarum, the Mother of Tears. She is the youngest, most beautiful, and allegedly the most terrible. Sarah Mandy, a young art student, is accidentally set on the path against Lachrimarum when she opens an ancient urn that unleashes the witch's latent powers. It gets even worse when Sarah survives with the help of her spectral mother. Apparently Sarah herself is a white witch destined to activate her powers and set herself against the final evil of the Three Mothers. She travels throughout Rome and the Italian countryside looking for her missing boyfriend and answers to the riddle of the Three Mothers, while fleeing the witches coming to Lachrimarum's side from around the globe.

Mother of Tears is a film with many, many flaws, and I'm reluctant to admit that I did actually find it to be pretty entertaining. Though the film only retains vestiges of Argento's former greatness, the gore level alone indicates that the master is, at least a little bit, back. Thankfully he brought a number of former actors with him: Coralina Cataldi-Tossoni (Opera) has a brief part as an art historian torn to pieces; Udo Kier (Suspiria) steps in as a doomed priest; and the beloved Daria Nicolodi (Deep Red, Tenebre, Inferno, Opera, etc.) is back as Sarah Mandy's ghostly mother, Elisa Mandy, who supposedly is the real killer of Helena Markos in Suspiria. While I can never make up my mind about her acting ability, I can't help but love Asia Argento. She is Sarah Mandy and obviously the role was written for her.

What the character of Sarah unfortunately lacks is the intimate environment present in the first two films. While Suspiria and Inferno were tales of terror set on more private scales, Mother of Tears encompasses the entire city of Rome and the Third Mother dishes out enough terror and destruction to drive most of the city to a frenzy of insanity and violence. Promising as that sounds, I think this is one of the reasons the film ultimately fails. The claustrophobic paranoia of the first two are absent because the entire city is suffering in Lachrimarum's orgy of terror. And with hordes of witches streaming in from every airport and bus station, it's kind of difficult to keep it a secret.

Overall I would say all Argento fans owe it to themselves to see Mother of Tears. There is some incredible gore and the story is almost convincing enough. While it can't really be called a horror classic or even a must-see, I seem to be strangely addicted to its badness. It's just plain cheesy fun and it really reminds me of the days when I was a naive teenager watching and delighting in anything that came across my path. Though some of the dialogue, acting, and CGI are laughably bad, there might just be enough nostalgia to get you through.

The DVD I'm reviewing is the region two disc, because patience is not my strong suit, and I had to see it the second it was out on DVD. The region one is basically the same thing, released by Dimension Extreme with an English language track and set in widescreen. It's kind of a lackluster DVD with a making of featurette, an interview with Argento, and trailers. Hopefully someday someone will come out with a fabulous box set featuring restored prints of all three films in the trilogy and a load of special features rivaling the extended versions of Lord of the Rings.

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