Review Date: October 4, 2008
Released by: Dimension
Release date: 9/23/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Well, Sir Dario's trilogy is finally complete with Mother of Tears
. That will bring tears of joy for some and tears of sadness for others, his concluding film to golden age hits Suspiria
coming well after his expiration date as a viable genre staple. His last great film was The Stendhal Syndrome
, and twelve years is a long time. Dario's a Master of Horror now, though, and with his Stendhal
star standing by her father, as well as previous collaborators Daria Nicolodi, Udo Kier and Claudio Simonetti there's definite potential here. Thanks to being a Weinstein product, Mother of Tears
naturally had little to no theatrical release here in the Americas, but considering most of Argento's fans grew up with his films on video anyway, no biggie, right? Has the king of Italian horror reclaimed his throne?
"Maaaaaaaaaaadreeeee" screams the soundtrack as if a day hasn't passed since the omnipresent titular refrain from Suspiria
. But no, times are a changing. Rome is becoming modern, and with modernity comes skeletons in the closets of history. A grave yard is being dug up, and inside one of the tombs is a special box. Siezed by a priest, he investigates it, only to find three cryptic statues symbolizing the Three Mothers of gothic literature. Two have already struck (see Suspiria
) but where's the third? Well in that crate of course! The priest seals it up, and instead of sending it back in the ground where it belongs, he ships it off to a museum. Yeah, they definitely won't open it up there. It falls in the hands of "American" (yeah) intern, Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento
), and all it takes is an accidental prick of blood and voila...chaos!
Rome starts to crumble. Men burst out into uncontrollable violence. Looting runs rampant. A woman throws her baby off a bridge. The Mother of Tears
is unleashed, and everybody's crying. After seeing her museum colleague slashed up by some witches, Sarah finds herself on the run and with no signs of stopping. As if this isn't already bad enough for her, she also has to deal with the memories of her mother's death. She looks at pictures of a woman that looks exactly like Daria Nicolodi (it is!) spouts the titular optic fluid, and then is back on the run. Hey, there's still room for a little mystery when the world is in shambles, right?
Along her journey Sarah runs into many who state that her mother was a powerful force, and in her day was responsible for nearly obliterating one of the three vile witches. Remember that bed ridden hag from Suspiria
? That was Sarah's mom's doing. Udo Kier pops up to share that information, and then is promptly stabbed in the face over and over and over and over and over again (and over) by one of the many crazies running around Rome. If Sarah wants to stop this madness, she needs to come to terms with her mother's legacy and confront the never clothed final witch. There's no guarantee she won't be running through another cryptic piece of architecture with a few stops into some mucky catacombs, but hey that's the price you have to pay for change.
Rather than a triumphant return to form, this is really just more of the same from Argento after his stints on Masters of Horror. Lots of tits, lots of gore, little story and no sense. There are slight flourishes of familiarity, like when Kier ties the film to the previous happenings in the trilogy or when Argento fleshes out his broomstick mythology. His is a fascinating world, but unfortunately the story is always second to his perversions, and truth be told they just aren't that interesting here. Even his Masters of Horror entries had some sort of conviction for all their excess, both weaving together tales of lust and how it can literally tear a body apart. Here though, there's little justification for his breast implanted coven of witches running around naked and playing around in gore. They say the film camera is the best cure for impotence, and Dario certainly seems fit to prove it.
Gone is the Bava-esque formality of color and composition that so beautifully rendered Suspiria
. There was something so striking and resonating about the combination of arty theatrical lighting with unkempt carnage that made those films such memorable masterpieces. Here though, Argento just wants to get to the tits and the prosthetics and as long as it's exposed, it's a take. There's no complex mise-en-scene, nothing remotely resembling a storyboard, nothing, really, to show that Argento's anywhere near caring the way he once did for his films in the seventies and eighties. Here he had legions of fans and decades of hype that would ensure he could have whatever means to finish his most admired trilogy, and what does it do? Does he take the time to really provoke or enlighten with all the shadows in the dark? No. He cashes a paycheck.
He's not alone, though. Asia Argento is just plain boring as the lead, and totally miscast as an "American" - her accent thicker than anyone's in Rome. There must be some sort of contempt, too, when every other woman strips nude but the boss's daughter who so freely shed the clothes in all his other pictures. Or is that class? Simonetti's score is nearly forgettable, a bunch of Radiers of the Lost Arc
histrionics without any semblance of theme. And before he was so skilled at making the most simplistic of melodies grab at your ears. The gore is thankfully old school, but when the film relies on it over story, performance and anything else, then it becomes more a crutch than anything else.
Mother of Tears
is the sort of shallow, moderately enjoyable mess that characterized all the rampant Argento knock-offs of the eighties. Fine for most, but for il maestro, it's a sad fate. Lucio Fulci fell down this path, too, near the end of his career, using nudity and gore to cover up the fact that he just didn't care any more. Before these guys could paint fear with their camera, but at this stage they just smear excess all over the canvas. "You can look but you can't touch," you can hear Argento musing. Funny, because we used to have it both ways when your horror actually moved us. Tears indeed.
The disc starts up with a bunch of compressed, interlaced logos and trailers, but fear not for the actual presentation is comfortably progressive. This 2.35:1 anamorphic waste of scope looks fairly well, although it is often very soft in parts. Color timing is fine and saturation comes through realistically, but considering Argento's total disinterest in color here, you would hardly notice either way if it weren't for human flesh to set the barometer. The print is very clean, without any dust or scratches. It's nothing fancy, just your run of the mill modern transfer.
The only track included is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English. Now many Argento fans will be screaming, "Where's the Italian?!" but truth be told despite the fact that the film is set in Rome, all the actors here are speaking English. Even Asia tries her best to make her thick accent sound decipherable - too bad she's supposed to be American. The track itself is actually fairly good, with a decent amount of ambient effects, and all that trademark Simonetti whispering coming through with a decent amount of directionality. The climax with all the burning fire and crumbling architecture also does some damage to the LFE channel as well. Not too shabby.
Dimension Extreme has given Mother of Tears
a few decent supplements. There's an English language interview with Dario, where he talks about his inspiration for the film, his fans' desire to continue the legacy, working with his daughter and the possibilities of making the series a quadrilogy. Please God, no. The interview is eight minutes, and even if it is a little too promotional, hearing Argento with all his morbid energy is always entertaining. A little more substantial is "The Making of Mother of Tears
", with plenty of on set footage and interviews with Asia et al. Asia starts it off nicely talking about how Suspiria
was always her bedtime fairy tale, and how she couldn't resist continuing on the legacy herself. There's then some good footage of Argento getting into all the depravity with giddy glee on set, no doubt imaging every breast as a dollar sign. It's all Italian, and there's some involving footage of pre-production meetings, on-set talk and actual scenes being filmed. For fans of the craft of filmmaking, this is a solid look inside.
The disc is rounded off with a couple ho hum trailers, one in English and one in Italian. Is it possible for the Weinstein's to ever even try to make their acquisitions look interesting?
There are tears alright, but without the coloring, cohesion, or craft of Argento's original films, it's all sadness and little joy. He piles on the boobs and the blood as a veil for his careless disinterest in the quality of his contemporary work. He's done gore well enough before, and when Udo Kier gets hit for the fifteenth time to the face with a cleaver, you wonder when Argento will stop beating the same dead horse and come up with something new. The image is clean but soft, the sound has a fair punch and the making-of is surprisingly candid, but with a film this transparent it's all smoke and mirrors. Fans of Argento the artist will be extremely disappointed, while fans of Argento the producer will probably lamentingly revel in all the gory madness. Argento digs up the past again with his next film, Giallo
, let's just hope he has something to say this time.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+
Supplements - B-
- Running time - 1 hour 29 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- "The making of Mother of Tears" featurette
- Dario Argento interview