(Movie Review by Dustin Adrian) In the 70s Dario Argento’s films married two unlikely things-lurid violence and gorgeous visuals. His vibrant set design, use of color and imaginative direction made him a hit with both horror fans and critics. Many believe his best film is Suspiria, the story of a young girl trapped in a dance school where strange events are happening; the film is both beautiful and terrifying. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of, and to this day, is considered one of the scariest films ever made. He followed that up with the sequel, Inferno. The film lacks the originality of Suspiria and suffers from a weak script but still manages to deliver some chilling moments. Now, 30 years later, the 68 year old director has finished his trilogy with his film The Mother of Tears AKA The Third Mother.
The film opens with a construction worker driving his bulldozer into a 3 foot wide hole and flipping over the dashboard. “Hey there’s something down here!” he yells. How he managed to drive into the hole, and how he didn’t see it beforehand is the first of many mysteries presented by the film. Let’s just say they were obscured by EVIL and move on.
A small casket is unearthed with the skeleton of a child with an ancient talisman and it is sent off to a museum for analysis. Right off the bat you are hit with the fact that this movie is no Suspiria or Inferno. Five minutes in, there is a cheap and pointless “gotcha” scare and five minutes later, we get another. Then you’re hit with how bad the dialogue and acting is. Asia Argento and Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni play the museum art experts who receive the casket. Unfortunately by the time you have your pants halfway off you realize that sadly no, this isn’t a porno movie, their acting just sucks. Coralina somehow cuts her thumb while opening the wax-sealed casket and the blood awakens an ancient evil. You know this because you actually see the evil wake up and open its eyes.
Finally, any hope that this movie would resemble its predecessors goes out the window when actual hairy demons descend on Carolina and strangle her to death with her own intestines. The talisman has awakened a witch known as The Mother of Tears and as a result madness has swept the streets. As the witches congregate and conjure, Asia struggles to deal with the police, her past, and the dark forces surrounding her. The Mother of Tears is played by an Israeli model Moran Atias, who appears naked the first time we see her… leading to further confusion as to just what kind of film this is.
If you watch The Mother of Tears expecting the same kind of film as its predecessors you are going to be sorely disappointed. In fact, many people will find the film terrible. Especially when measured against Suspiria or Inferno. Gone are the signature stylistic flourishes; suspense and atmosphere is of little concern. The plot is exposition heavy and the acting is terrible. The soundtrack by Goblin front man, Claudio Simonetti bears no resemblance to the earlier films’ music. Yet, the film succeeds in being entertaining. How? Sheer balls to the wall ridiculousness. Where the previous films in the series were brutal, this film could easily get an NC-17 for violence. Since it looks like it will be released only on DVD, most viewers will be able to see it in all its gory glory. The sheer, unrelenting audacity of Argento to mine the depths of cheap thrills is enough alone to recommend The Mother of Tears.
Even in today’s market of “torture porn” i.e. Hostel or Saw, there is a line that everyone knows not to go over. Dario Argento punts a dead baby over that line.
Some scenes include:
- A mother throwing her baby off a bridge and watching it ricochet on the way down.
- Witches throwing an orgy and pulling intestines out of each other’s ass with their teeth.
- A mother chopping her baby to death with a giant cleaver.
- A priest having his throat slashed and face diced.
The level of violence in this movie goes well beyond anything seen in Argento’s previous films. Let’s face it, it also goes well beyond Hollywood’s. That’s the films strength. From moment to moment, for reasons intentional or not, you can’t believe your eyes. 80s New wave witches? A Floating torso? A killer monkey? They’re all included for your viewing pleasure. A production with sensibilities this far off the map doesn’t get made in today’s environment.
So does The Mother of Tears recapture that early Argento magic? Does it live up to Suspiria? No it doesn’t. The Mother of Tears is the work of a director completely out of touch. It’s as if Argento has existed in a vacuum all this time and the lack of oxygen has made him even more insane. Depending how you look at it, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Mother of Tears is more exploitation cinema than classic Argento. A nasty, shameless, bloody mess…and that’s kind of refreshing.
Dario Argento (director) / Jace Anderson, Dario Argento, Walter Fasano, Adam Gierasch, Simona Simonetti (screenplay)
CAST: Asia Argento … Sarah Mandy
Cristian Solimeno … Detective Enzo Marchi
Adam James … Michael Pierce
Moran Atias … Mater Lachrymarum
Valeria Cavalli … Marta Colussi