JUNE 6, 2008
I have read some fairly bad reviews of Mother Of Tears (aka La Terza Madre), and while I can't say that the film is perfect, I really don't get why some folks seem to think that this movie is a complete departure from the other two in the series. Maybe it's because I just saw Inferno for the first time about 2 months ago, and thus haven't 'waited' 27 years for this movie, but I felt it was a worthy followup and more or less a return to form for Argento. Some reviews have said that the film is too goofy - I'm sorry, was I supposed to take a guy being attacked by about 10,000 cats serious? Anyone who thinks this is him slumming it should watch The Card Player and then re-watch Mother. At least this movie has the good sense to have a killer monkey and gratuitous gore.
Like Inferno to Suspiria, there isn't any traditional sort of sequel feeling to this film, though they are acknowledged; Inferno's events are mentioned in passing, and Suspiria is given a bit more of a shoutout, but one doesn't need to see the films to understand this one. And given the disappointment others seem to feel, maybe not seeing those films (which are admittedly better) will help you enjoy this one more, as your expectations won't be as high. It's the same way I felt about the newest Indy movie; to me, someone who didn't grow up watching them, it felt like a good continuation. Yet, if Chevy Chase were to make a new Fletch film today (I watched that movie so many times as a kid it has literally informed my speaking mannerisms), I would be scrutinizing every frame, so I can at least understand where these folks are coming from. Still, one shouldn't discount the film entirely simply because it's not a masterpiece.
I had a blast for the most part. It was like the Argento of old; we got skeleton-less victims, nonsensical character actions, utterly baffling scare scenes, a fantastic Claudio Simonetti score (aided by a Cradle of Filth title song that I have been singing all night), Udo Kier hamming it up (though his role is way too brief), uncomfortable moments with his daughter Asia... it's all here. Like a homecoming, it's as much a celebration of the past as it is about the current event itself. There are even little nods to other Argento films; Asia's final scene more than just slightly resembles the climax of Phenomena.
The story is a bit uneven, particularly in the first hour. Even though Asia is the heroine, she is absent for a good 15-20 minute chunk while we follow the investigation through the eyes of her lover, a character who turns out to be rather minor in the overall scheme of things. She doesn't need to be in every scene, but this sort of setup occurring this early in the film is a bit jarring; perhaps going back and forth between the two for a while (instead of all of his scenes together) would have been better. Inferno had a bit of this as well, but there there WAS no real main character, it was like an ensemble all the way through.
The gore stuff, on the other hand, is fantastic. This movie offers 100% more half-eaten baby than any other film in recent memory, and there's plenty of other highlights - numerous throat slashings, a woman choked with her own intestines, an impalement or two, a head squished in a door... good stuff. It's not as setpiece driven as the other films - it actually flows pretty well and the killings feel organic to the story, and other than the sequence with the lover guy, Asia remains front and center throughout, and thus makes it easier to follow along. On the other hand, this means that there aren't many opportunities for Argento to indulge in his stylish visual mastery - it's more a return to form from a story standpoint than a technical one.
The release is limited, which is a bummer but fairly expected - I can't really see anyone other than Argento junkies going out to see this in theaters, even if it is more accessible than the other 2 films in the series (for better or worse). If it's not playing near you, please seek it on DVD and relish in the fact that Argento has made his most Argento-y movie in over a decade. Maybe it doesn't quite fit in with its thematic predecessors, but it fits in with his filmography as a whole better than all of his recent work.
What say you?