MOTHER OF TEARS was Dario Argento’s backburner project for years. I never really watched them close enough together to pick up on it, but SUSPIRIA and INFERNO were supposed to be about sister witches, and he always meant to make one about the third sister. Unfortunately he didn’t get it made until 2007, long after he stopped being a reliable filmatist, so most people were not impressed.
Argento’s daughter Asia (xXx) plays Sarah Mandy, an assistant at some museum who is there when her boss unseals and accidentally bleeds on (you know how it is) an ancient artifact, summoning witches who horribly murder the boss. This is a creepy scene because of the way Sarah just sort of glimpses a feeding frenzy from outside of the room, and because she gets pursued through the empty museum by an evil monkey that tries to keep up with her and keeps hissing to notify the others of her location.
Sarah’s in alot of trouble, but also she starts hearing voices that help her Ben Kenobi style, and unlock doors for her and stuff. This is of course when you realize the movie is in as much trouble as Sarah. A see-through Daria Nicolodi (who played “Woman at Airport” in SUSPIRIA – is it the same character?) starts appearing to her, and Udo Kier (who is not the same character he played in SUSPIRIA) explains to her her connection to the characters in SUSPIRIA and INFERNO. This, along with occasional dubbed voices and cheap, unpopulated scenes of the world in chaos might’ve seemed less out of place in a ’70s giallo than in a 2007 international release.
The real problem is a lack of style. The best Argento movies shoot directly to the part of your brain that doesn’t need (or even want) logic. It makes it in there smoothly by getting you in the mood with a strong atmosphere and overwhelming you with powerful visuals and sounds. Circa 2007 Argento just did not have the chops to do that. The photography is average and plain, the score is by Goblin leader Claudio Simonetti, but it’s just him on keyboards imitating an orchestra, so it sounds cheesy and cheap. It has none of the rockin weirdness or bombast of Goblin, it’s more like a Full Moon Video score. It needs the rhythm section.
But I’m frontloading this review with the bad news, because the truth is I also enjoyed watching this crazy movie. There are several glorious points where Mr. Argento’s damaged brain comes through like only it could. It is fair to say that this is a disappointing and unworthy followup to two horror masterpieces, but it would not be fair to say that it’s not worth watching. To do so would be to ignore this wonderful sequence about what happens when a random witch lady follows Sarah onto a train:
In my opinion this would be a good thing to use as a self defense video for women to learn how to protect themselves from attackers and witches on the trains or subways.
There’s a whole gang of these fashionable contemporary witch ladies, who show up at the airport and stroll around trying to draw attention to themselves. They look like sorcery’s answer to The Spice Girls or Josie and the Pussycats.
They’re pretty obnoxious, pretty full of themselves, and probly take forever to get ready every time they leave the house. I don’t think I’d want to hang out with them. I guess the sister witches are as different from each other as the witches of Oz. This sister’s followers are nothing like that old hag in Suspiria, who Udo Kier keeps referring to as “The Mother of Sizes.” I don’t remember that being a thing.
The Mother of Tears herself (played by Moran Atias), when we see her in her underground lair or whatever, seems to model herself more after Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
I know what you’re probly thinking, just like I was: Man, I need some alchemy in this thing. What the fuck good is a movie without alchemists in it? Don’t worry, there is a part where she goes to talk to a nice old man in a wheelchair and he sprays perfume in her face and it paralyzes her and he pulls out a big lens that makes her eye veins glow so he can read them and find out everything about her. These type of scenes are why I gotta have some love for MOTHER OF TEARS.
Sarah has other people on her side. There’s this beautiful woman Marta (Valeria Cavalli) who I guess is a “white witch” who knew her mother, so she tells her what’s up with the ghost mom and gives her alot of the information she needs like “your parents were killed by an evil witch” and “only you can save the world from descending into mayhem and mass suicides because of this same witch.”
As soon as Sarah leaves Marta alone with her gorgeous young girlfriend we get the scene that makes the movie. Sarah finds out someone is after Marta and calls to warn her. And she’s not sure what she hears on the other end of the phone, but suffice it to say it’s this motherfucker:
He has the evil monkey with him, and he takes out a folding tool that is used to poke out two eyeballs at once, and he uses it. Also he uses another tool to do something much worse that I am not so happy that I have seen. Then the Mother of Tears and her stable of hoes stroll in, naked under their skimpy robes, baldie here immediately bows and grovels, and the mother goes over and licks the tears off of poor, dying Marta.
The scene actually made me say “Oh my god,” out loud, so I gotta give Argento credit.
And, I mean, I am only a man, only a human being. I like the simple pleasures in life. So I like the part where the monkey jumps on Sarah’s head:
I can’t be sure but it looks like Asia was a trooper and did that with a real monkey. I don’t know why Vin Diesel was so reluctant to kiss a cool lady that goes the extra mile like that.
This is a movie in desperate need of one of those fan recuts. Or not even recut it, just have some young Goblin acolytes add more instrumentation to those Simonetti themes and go nuts with it. It would make the movie way more enjoyable if you could nod your head to it.
It’s crappy, but it’s fun. It’s almost there. I can’t recommend it as the conclusion to the trilogy, but if you want to sample some late Argento weirdness then I say go for it.
October 31st, 2013 at 2:12 am
There’s some shit in here that really fucks with me. One of the best ideas in Suspiria is when the blind piano player is being followed by the evil presence, and you’re looking everywhere to see what’s going to jump out at him, and then his own guide dog takes him down. He riffs on that a bit in here I think with the mothers who suddenly kill their infants for no reason. The source of protection suddenly becoming the thing that kills you. What a fucked up idea!
The “oh my god” scene that Vern refers to made quite an impression on me. I think this was the movie that sent me off the deep end searching for really gnarly stuff but I hadn’t seen anything quite like that stuff. I mean this is a film where somebody gets strangled by their intestines within MINUTES of the film starting. Also did you notice umbilical cord coming out of the woman’s crotch and the other end is literally in another witch’s mouth? Like what, she swallowed the baby hole or something??
I used to defend this movie a lot saying “but Argento movies are never about dialogue and plot” or whatever, but now I know that I was full of shit. Vern has the right of it, a lot of stuff here is totally indefensible.
I’m all fuzzy that Vern reviewed something I recommended in the October Programming Notes thread. Mad ups, Vern.