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Mother Of Tears (2007)
Director: Dario Argento

review by Octavio Ramos Jr

There's little doubt that the anticipation for his film was overwhelming, given that the first of Dario Argento's subsequent 'three mothers' trilogy, 1977's Suspiria, remains something of a crown jewel among horror fans. Adding to the frenetic ambiance, were two episodes of TV series Masters Of Horror (Jenifer and Pelts), both of which were quirky but effective pieces of chilled storytelling. And even through Mother Of Tears (aka: La terza madre) is no Suspiria or even Inferno, it nevertheless has some of Argento's signature set pieces and quirky filmmaking techniques that have solidified his reputation through the years.

The film opens in a church cemetery, where some workers discover a priest's coffin, on top of which is chained a small box. A cardinal and several priests are on hand to examine both. The cardinal decrees that the priest be reburied in a new location and that the box be sent to one Michael Pierce (Adam James) at the Natural History Museum in Rome. Pierce is not available when the box arrives, so it falls on Giselle Mares (played by singer/ actress Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, who also appeared in Argento's Opera and Phantom Of The Opera), and Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento, the director's daughter), to open it. Inside they discover a knife, three little statues, and a red tunic, all of which unleash the evil Mother of Tears, the last of the three witches.

Argento's first set piece has the three demon statues come to life and violently dispatch Giselle. The scene is horrifically violent, an Argento trademark, but the actual brutality lacks emotional intensity. Gone are the disturbing soundtrack of Goblin and the director's sense of drama and colour. Instead, we get a personification of observation in the form of a baboon (strange, but Argento has used animals this way before). The scene works well enough, but it lacks Argento's panache, which is what diehard fans crave.

Once the Mother of Tears is unleashed, a wave of violence overwhelms the world. To gather even more strength, the Mother of Tears begins to cultivate witches from all over the world. In the meantime, the baboon purses Sarah, who soon discovers that she has the psychic powers to overcome the witch. She seeks out the help of Padre Johannes (Udo Kier) and a couple of quirky demonologists, and learns that her own mother (played by Asia's real-life mom, Daria Nicolodi) was murdered by the Mother of Tears and that it's her destiny to confront and kill the witch before the world is consumed in its own debauchery and violence.

As a horror film, Mother Of Tears is okay and delivers the gore goods. Argento also explains a little about the myth of the three mothers, which fills in some of the threads left open in both Suspiria and Inferno. As an Argento film, this one is a turkey. Asia is miscast as the lead (she's no Jessica Harper), as she lacks the vulnerability needed to evoke suspense. Argento's direction feels lazy, with scenes lacking the vivid colours and editing flair of previous films. And the soundtrack is mediocre (despite Dani Filth's participation) - I really missed the aural antics of Goblin, particularly during the set pieces.

Awkward and tacky at times but also inventive, irreverent, and revolting during others, Mother Of Tears may not please all Argento fans but it still fares better than many of the horror films out there today.

Mother of Tears DVD

Asia Argento has eye exam for Mother of Tears

green head in Mother of Tears DVD



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