= Highest Rating
horror maestro Dario Argento misfires with Inferno.
a semi-sequel to the excellent Suspiria,
is Argento's worst film to date with the exception
of his 1998 version of Phantom
of the Opera.
Inventive sets, lighting, camera work and effects
(created with the assistance of the legendary
Mario Bava) fail to overcome an incoherent plot,
terrible dialog and — unusual for an Argento film
— mostly awful music score. We are treated
to some marvelous set-pieces orchestrated with
Argento's signature style and panache. But these
resonant scenes are merely parts of a disjointed
Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle),
a poet living in New York, has come to believe
that her apartment building is the dwelling place
of some mysterious supernatural force. This was
revealed to her in an old book, written in Latin,
by an architect and alchemist named Verelli. Entitled
The Three Mothers, the book claims that
Death is physically manifested on Earth in the
form of three sisters, or mothers ("Maters"):
Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs; Mater
Lacrimarum, the Mother of Tears; and Mater Tenebrarum,
the Mother of Darkness. The Mother of Sighs occupies
a house in Freiburg, Germany (which was destroyed
The house of Mater Lacrimarum is in Rome. New
York City is where the house of the third mother,
Mother of Darkness, is
the very oddly-designed building Rose lives in.
From these houses, Verelli claims, the Three Mothers
interfere with Man's destiny, spreading evil across
Rose questions antique dealer
Mr. Kazanian (Sacha Piteoff), who sold her The
Three Mothers, about its possible meaning.
Getting only more riddles from the creepy merchant,
she continues her own exploration of the building's
environs based on the maddeningly vague clues
in Verelli's book. Led to its dangerous, dilapidated
cellar, Rose accidentally drops her keys into
a flooded hole in the floor. Naturally, she kicks
off her shoes and jumps in to get them! (No
way. No sane person would do this.
She does get her keys, though...) In one of the
film's eeriest moments, Rose discovers that the
hole leads to a flooded ballroom, complete with
chandeliers and ornate furnishings. It also contains
floating, badly decomposed corpses. Shocked and
revolted, she desperately flails her way back
to the entrance hole in the ballroom ceiling.
It's a moment of marvelously staged cinema terror.
Unbelievably, Rose does not
call the police about her horrifying discovery.
Instead she attempts to contact her brother Mark
(blandly played by Leigh McCloskey), a music major
studying in Rome. A letter she's written to him
about her suspicions is accidentally picked up
by Sara (Eleonora Giorgi), Mark's friend and fellow
student. She reads it, of course, and is intrigued.
On the way home Sara detours to a library to see
if it has a copy of The Three Mothers.
Finding one, she attempts to steal it. She then
becomes lost in the library when it closes for
In the library's bowels Sara
stumbles upon a medieval alchemist's lab, complete
with bubbling vat and a shadowy, hulking brute
claw-tipped fingers. The thing demands the book,
attempting to kill Sara even after she hurls the
tome to the floor in her panicked flight from
(So... Does this mean that the library itself
is the Mother of Tears' dwelling place in Rome?
It would seem that way, indicating one hell
of a coincidence. If so, why display the book
where anyone can pick it up?) Back at her flat
the shaken Sara enlists the aid of sports writer
Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) to keep her company, explaining
simply that she's afraid to be alone. Carlo agrees
— soon to his eternal regret. Sara phones Mark
and insists he come over immediately. Then the
power goes out. In the highpoint of the film,
Argento pulls out all the stops for a giallo-style
double murder sequence that rivals some of his
best work in Deep
Mark arrives at Sara's apartment
to find her and Carlo brutally stabbed, torn fragments
of Rose's letter on the floor. For answers to
the deepening mystery, Mark
— whose attempts to contact his sister by phone
have failed — is soon on his way to New York and
the apartment building where Rose lives.
It's at this point that Inferno
begins to fall apart,
becoming less coherent with each turn in the flimsy
plot. Its artful set-pieces and dreamlike mood
and images come to naught without a solid structure
in which to frame them. Characters say and do
stupid things, set to an irritating music score
by Keith Emerson (keyboardist of pretentious '70s
prog-rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer). Save
for a beautifully haunting piano melody first
heard over the film's opening scenes, the score
sharply detracts from the narrative rather than
enhance it — frequent Argento collaborator
Goblin is sorely missed here.
An Argento film with
bad music is like eating Beluga caviar on two
week-old Wonder bread.
For Argento fans only.
Bay's restoration of this little-seen, 20 year old
supernatural thriller is first-rate. Unfortunately,
one questions whether the movie was worth the effort.
Along with the superior video transfer and 5.1 Dolby
sound mix, the DVD comes with the film's trailer
(which makes the flick look a lot better than it
actually is), talent bios, an on-set photo gallery
and a subtitled interview with the director and
his assistant, Lamberto Bava (son of Mario). Argento
also presents the film in an opening video introduction.
The 2000 Anchor Bay edition reviewed here went OOP
in 2005. In March 2011 Blue Underground is releasing
a remastered hi-def transfer of the film on both
DVD and Blu-ray,
adding a pair of newly-produced featurettes to the
interview and introduction that were included on
the AB disc.