Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to highlight films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
Italy! The wine and pasta-filled Italian countryside has birthed many famous directors. Frederico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Bernardo Bertolucci to name a few. Dario Argento may not have won any distinguished awards or highbrow critical acclaim like his countrymen, but he easily matches up in the fame department. He’s considered to be a master of the horror genre with several popular titles in his oeuvre. His classics include Suspiria, Tenebrae, and my personal favorite, Phenomena. As fond as I am of Phenomena‘s killer midget and pre-stardom Jennifer Connelly (she can control insects with her mind!), I’ve never really been a fan of Argento’s particular brand of horror. Suspiria is his most famous film, known for it’s stylized murder set-pieces and driving musical score from Italian rock band Goblin. But like every other Argento film, it doesn’t make a single goddamn ounce of sense.
Mother of Tears is Argento’s newest release but there’s very little about it that’s new. Asia Argento, Dario’s daughter, stars as Sarah Mandy, a museum assistant who finds herself targeted by a cabal of whorish witches. (And yes, she again has a nude scene in her father’s film, which seems just a little yucky.) It seems a long-buried urn has been opened unleashing the Mother of Tears into the bowels of Rome. Witches from around the world fly in (on jets, disappointingly), and the city goes mad with murders, rapes, and infanticides. Supporting characters are introduced to fill in Sarah’s knowledge as well as refresh our own, only to die brutally minutes later. The back story they’re providing reminds the viewer that Mother of Tears is the final film of a trilogy started over thirty years ago with Suspiria and continued with Inferno. Unlike the protagonists in those two films, Sarah shares a connection to the events around her and holds the key to their defeat. The story comes to a minor conclusion during a bloody orgy that I’m fairly certain features a woman eating something nasty out of another woman’s ass. Again, it was dark. And I refused to rewind to verify.
Gruesome murders are commonplace in Argento’s films, but Mother of Tears ups the ante in every way. A woman is cut open and strangled with her own intestines. The great and subtle Udo Kier is slashed, stabbed, and hacked. A baby is thrown off a bridge. A woman is impaled between the legs with a large metallic spike that eventually bursts from her mouth. These assaults are less stylized and more graphic than anything Argento’s presented before, and they’re effective in coloring the mood dark, brutal, and unforgiving.
Phenomena aside, the brutality and gore places Mother of Tears at the high end of Argento’s output. But that’s not really saying much. It’s senseless babble, ridiculous character behavior, horrible acting, and a cheap finale. On the plus side though, the movie does feature a naked witch asking a crowd of deviants “Who wants to eat the girl?”
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