Nine Nights of Argento – #6 Inferno (1980)

tumblr_lnpzz5E7ZT1qkclxdo1_500I will be watching Dario Argento‘s first nine films (not counting The Five Days, which is currently unavailable in the US), from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage to Opera.

two-stars1At this point in my Dario Argento marathon, I know it’s pretty pointless to look for a story in any of his films, but Inferno has to be the messiest affair of them all. An uneven hodgepodge of all the director’s best and worst tropes, this supernatural horror yarn is made all the more disheartening as it’s the psuedo-sequel to 1977’s near-perfect Suspiria. Needless to say, it does itself no favors with the comparison.

This time out, characters in New York and Rome unearth an old book concerning the “Three Mothers”, a trio of witches that includes Suspiria‘s main antagonist Helena Markos with a little ret-conning. It seems that there are tons of copies of this book available all over the world, despite the fact that the supposedly powerful Mothers like to kill anyone who seeks it out. Not to tell these witches how to do their job or anything, but you’d think their first step would be to make sure it’s actually gone out of print, because in this world it seems to be selling more copies than Harry Potter. Hell, the antiques dealer who lives next door to “the cruelest Mother” has the audacity to carry FOUR COPIES on the shelf, with probably more in storage.

As characters meander in and out of the story like cows into the slaughterhouse, the bodies start to pile up all over the place, usually because of the book or the apartment or the lunar eclipse or whatever has been most recently mentioned in dialogue. It’s not until the final twenty minutes of the film that Argento finally settles on a location (the New York mother’s apartment building) and a hero (a sweaty and awkwardly mustachioed Leigh McCloskey), only to stage a clumsy climax in what basically amounts to an elaborate suicide.

It’s clear that Argento wanted to capitalize on Suspiria’s success, but he sets himself up for failure by excluding all the most vital collaborators from that project, including the unholy synthmasters of Goblin, co-writer Daria Nicolodi, and perhaps most glaringly, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, whose signature red-and-blue color palette from Suspiria is uneasily mimicked here by new DP Romano Albani.

Nevertheless, even a bad Argento movie is entertaining, and there’s plenty of good crazy fun to be found here, including an underwater ballroom, homicidal cats, hordes of rats, and a glorious hot dog vendor with questionable allegiances.

Next up: TENEBRE


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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features, Reviews


  1. Inferno | screengrabsaz - November 28, 2013

    […] Nine Nights of Argento – #6 Inferno (1980) ( […]

  2. Nine More Nights of Argento #7 – “The Mother of Tears” (2007) | - October 25, 2014

    […] Capitalizing on the success of that film, Argento followed up with 1980’s pseudo-sequel Inferno, which introduced the concept of the “Three Mothers”, a trio of ancient evil witches […]

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