Nine More Nights of Argento #7 – “The Mother of Tears” (2007)

MATERLast October, I saw the first nine films directed by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. With the spooky season upon us again, I’ve decided to check out the back-half of Argento’s filmography, from 1990’s George A. Romero team-up Two Evil Eyes to 2012’s notorious flop Dracula 3D.

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In 1977, Dario Argento introduced global audiences to a world of magic and horror with his magnum opus Suspiria, a visually-stunning masterpiece of pop-art horror concerning a German dance school controlled by a coven of powerful witches. 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 comprised of the film’s main antagonist the “Mother of Darkness”, the “Mother of Sighs” from Suspiria, and the youngest and most powerful witch, the “Mother of Tears”, who would presumably star in the final chapter of the planned trilogy.

Thirty years after Suspiria, the third mother finally gets her moment in the spotlight in the midst of what many horror fans consider to be a steep decline in quality for Argento. That isn’t entirely accurate, as the Giallo madman’s output has always been wildly uneven, and the goofy and gory Mother of Tears ends up being a guilty pleasure of sorts, offering up insane visuals while making precious little sense.

While it was never going to be anywhere near as effective as Argento’s magnum opus Suspiria, Mother of Tears nevertheless manages to be a marked improvement over the disjointed second chapter Inferno, if only by putting in the minimal narrative legwork by choosing a clear protagonist (a latent white witch) with an objective (destroy the Mother of Tears) in a coherent setting (Rome) before descending into stream-of-consciousness madness. As easy as that may sound, Inferno forewent any semblance of character or story, opting to be a tedious art installation with a few memorable scenes.

After a silly opening title sequence, Mother of Tears quickly picks up steam as a strange urn containing a bunch of occult trinkets is unearthed by a group of Catholic priests. The eldest priest ships the urn and its contents off to Rome’s Museum of Ancient Art, where researcher Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) and the assistant curator inadvertently spill blood on it, read a few evil words, and awaken the Mother of Tears (Moran Artias). The powerful witch promptly gets to work unleashing all kinds of hell on Earth, starting with the insanely graphic murder of the assistant curator, who gets disembowled and strangled with her own guts by a gang of hunchback goblins while a sneaky baboon in middle-management observes from the sidelines.

Things somehow get crazier from there as Rome descends into low-budget anarchy in the wake of the Mother’s return. Murders and suicides skyrocket, children are cannibalized, crazy dudes smash up a bunch of cars, and Father Udo Kier gets totally slammed with requests for exorcisms. While broods of cackling witchy Goth girls yuk it up and descend on Rome to pledge fielty to their resurrected queen, Sarah discovers that she herself is the magical descendant of a powerful white witch and races across the city to stop the Mother of Tears. It’s surprising to see such an active protagonist in an Italian horror film, as young Sarah chases down leads, hones her magic powers, kills off a bunch of demonic minions, and even finds time for a quick shower to fulfill her obligatory nude scene.

Like its predecessors, Mother of Tears is mostly nonsensical, but it sustains such a manic level of energy and is stuffed with such an abundance of gross-out visuals that it’s easy to overlook its many flaws, including an anticlimactic finale and some rather awful CGI, including an unfortunate green screen cameo by Asia’s real-life mother Daria Nicolodi. Inferno fans, I await your wrath.

Next up: GIALLO (2009)

 

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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features, Reviews

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