Monday, October 27, 2008

One Sick "Mother"

Italian horror director Dario Argento is an acquired taste. Sure, the guy's a legend: "Suspiria" (1977) is hailed as a classic and all of his films are respected for their elegant visuals and freakish scares. But truth be told, watching an Argento film can be a trying affair. There's the bad dubbing. The occasionally flat acting. The incomprehensible plots-- his movies are beautiful and eerie, to be sure, but you may find yourself wondering "What exactly is this about again?" Which makes "Mother of Tears," the long awaited final chapter in the "three mothers" trilogy that began with "Suspiria" and continued with 1980's "Inferno," something of a pleasant surprise. Critics have complained that this movie lacks the bold colors and artful visual aesthetic Argento's known for. But what "Mother of Tears" lacks in those departments it more than makes up for in coherence and naturalism, along with a healthy dose of indelibly gory images. Argento's daughter, the beautiful and talented Asia, stars as Sarah, a young woman who finds out that she alone can stop the return of the last of the witches-- the titular Mother of Tears. Spurned on by the ghost of her "white witch" mother, Asia must unravel the mystery and use her new-found powers to vanquish this evil hag. The dialogue scenes are much more realistic and lively than in previous Argento movies, and the movie as a whole is much more streamlined and easy to follow. But it certainly doesn't skimp on the shocks. As the Mother rises, attracting hordes of creepy Eurotrash witches, anarchy breaks out throughout Rome. Scenes of rioting people and even a mother tossing her baby into a river are suitably unnerving. But they're nothing compared to the bloody kills perpetrated by the film's demons and witches: gouged out eyes, intestinal strangulations, and more are not for the faint of heart. And don't even get me started on the creepy monkey! (Don't ask, just watch and see for yourself.) While the finale left me somewhat underwhelmed-- I was hoping for more of an empowered climax for Sarah-- on the whole I enjoyed this scary and polished effort from Italy's master of the macabre. At nearly 70 years old, Argento is showing no signs of stopping as he enhances his legacy ever more.

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