Sunday, July 14, 2013

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK - Second Mother to the Left and Straight on to INFERNO

The guest writer this morning is Christine Hadden from Fascination With Fear. She will fascinate you... with FEAR!

My god. Inferno is a beautiful film. I know of no other movie that is as aesthetically pleasing and as downright bewitching (pun intended) as the second of Dario Argento's Three Mothers trilogy. I actually can't believe I haven't written about it yet on my own blog, but here I am to chat about it today with you fine people.

I didn't see Inferno until probably fifteen years or so ago. Suspiria was on my radar as a young teen, so I saw the first film of the trilogy at the age of probably fifteen or so. While it threw me for a loop, I somehow didn't consider Inferno as required viewing just then. (I was probably too knee-deep in Fulci by then!). But years later I gave it a go, and found it to look even more dazzling than Suspiria.

As many know, Dario Argento wasn't always one to have cohesive plots and linear story lines. But as fans, we Argentophiles just deal with it and move on to the glory. Inferno is no different. Being sandwiched between Suspiria and the (much later, much lambasted) Mother of Tears doesn't help it make any more sense, in fact I think it possibly makes it worse.

Rose (Irene Miracle), a young poet in New York City, discovers an ancient tome called The Three Mothers, she gets wrapped up in a mystery involving a trio of witches: Mater Lachrymarum, Mater Suspiriorum and Mater Tenebrarum, who hail from Rome, Germany, and New York, respectively. Putting pieces together eventually has Rose thinking that it's possible that the building she lives in is home to the Mother of Darkness (Mater Lachrymarum). She calls on her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey), a music student, to come to the city and help her get to the bottom of the truth.

Naturally, by the time Mark arrives in NYC, Rose is missing (though we all know she's not coming back!) and Mark is left to his own devices to not only figure out the Three Mothers enigma, but to discover just what happened to his sister.

Inferno has a lot of sub-plots that only marginally affect the main story line. At times the film seems to drag on with seemingly nothing happening, but you need to keep your eyes pealed for clues that do in fact work with the plot.

Though the main characters are (mostly) lucid, they themselves seem as confused as we are as to where the story is going. Mark stumbles through the creepy building and along the way meets a few strange occupants, including a mute elderly gentleman that seems to know a little more than he is letting on (or able to let on, as the case may be) and a somewhat weak and uneasy female neighbor played by Daria Nicolodi (who any Argento fan will recognize for her many character incarnations in his films and his former lover to boot.)

On the way to the (somewhat shaky) finish, there is plenty of beautiful death - as you would expect - including a man who gets mauled by dozens of rats and a woman who is horribly clawed by kitty-cats and then stabbed to death. But in this film, above all other Argentos, he is at his stylish best.

The stunning colors he uses in lighting and set design quite literally POP from the screen, making the whole film have a dream-like quality that is unlike anything you have seen or will see again.

The deep reds (no pun intended) and striking yellows and blues are ever-present and serve to highlight every shadowy figure and are a great backdrop for murder. If you think you've seen color from Argento, such as the brilliantly lit Suspiria, you haven't seen anything yet.

There is a simply amazing scene in an underwater ballroom (yes, you heard correctly) that has got to be experienced to be believed, and even boasts a well-lit floating corpse to lighten the mood.

Let's take a moment to mention the score. Like a beautiful color all its own within the film, Keith Emerson's score has a gorgeous piano theme, which stands to reason since its composer is none other than keyboardist of progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer fame. Though the piano sets the tone, the rest of the score can be as pulse-pounding as any good Goblin score you've heard. It is a radiant departure from other Argento films and one of my favorites.

The end of the film, as previously mentioned, is a little shaky. Mark finds himself in the depths of the apartment building only to meet the Mother of Darkness as she shows her true form. In my humble opinion Argento dropped the ball a little with a rather daffy-looking evil incarnation. But the rest of the film is a sight to behold, and a worthy addition to Argento's catalog of supernatural works.


Christine Hadden is the creator, editor, and head writer of the blog Fascination with Fear. Addicted to trashy vampire novels, she also loves Argento films, listening to the score from Psycho while showering, sitting alone in a darkened theater, and above all - yearns for a good ghost story. She is a contributor to Fangoria and has written for the excellent genre magazine, Paracinema.

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