Mother of Tears ReviewJoe Shaffer
Fans of Suspiria and Inferno who wish to deride the conclusion to the Three Mothers trilogy--the uncleverly titled Mother of Tears--will find plenty of fodder in this subpar installment. For starters, director Dario Argento eschews the style and grandeur the previous films exuded. Also missing in action are the baroque narrative and expertly built tension. In other words, Mother of Tears is very much the black sheep of the trilogy.
Personally, I don't think it would be fair to slate Mother of Tears based on the standards set by its predecessors. That's tantamount to saying that the film's greatest flaw is its association to the Three Mothers canon. Rather, I think it would be fairer to criticize this movie based on what it actually offers.
...which is, unfortunately, nothing special.
Mother of Tears forsakes the gorgeous coloration and illogical architecture of its predecessors, preferring instead to bombard its audience with brutality and buckets of gore. We're not talking about weak Hollywood gore, either, but the old school kind of splattery that Italian horror was once known for. To put it into perspective, there's one scene in which the protagonist Sara (Asia Argento) witnesses the mutilation of her coworker at the hands of three demons. They first shatter the woman's jaw, then eviscerate her, and end the madness by strangling her with her own innards. The film doesn't relent after that kill scene, either. We see plenty of cringe-worthy imagery, ranging from an infant being thrown from a bridge to a nasty groinal impalement scene. I find it funny that some have charged Argento with going soft since about the late '90s, and yet this is arguably his most violent piece to date.
In a lot of ways, the film hearkens back to the exploitation flicks of yore, sans the grainy cinematography and celluloid imperfections. I'm not only saying that because of the hefty amount of gore, but also because of the film's sexual overtones. For instance, it's nearly impossible to find a shot of the villainess Mater Lachrymarum that doesn't involve either full frontal nudity or a boob hanging out of her shadowy robes. Let's also not forget her faithful band of followers, who are always seen celebrating her return by engaging in orgies whilst dining on human flesh, and sometimes on each other.
As fan of vintage grindhouse movies and video nasties, you'd think I'd totally dig Mother of Tears. However, we just have to face it: exploitation is pretty much dead, and the material we used to see in video nasties has (for the most part) become contemporary. We're well past the age when film studios were pressured to heavily edit flicks from abroad, giving rise to expensive "unrated" imports. We're no longer living in an era where we have to track down a series of leads in order to obtain a $90-100 Japanese VCD of The Evil Dead just to be able to see the movie properly. These days guts and gazongas alone don't cut it, especially when there are B-movies out there that can offer those and more while either managing not to take themselves too seriously (Dead Alive/Braindead) or crafting a solid narrative (2007's Inside).
In all honesty, though, I'm not bothered by Mother of Tears's exploitation elements. The concept of entirely hinging a horror movie's value on shock may be dated, but such a movie could still be a fun, guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, Mother of Tears is guilty of much worse sins than pointless gore.
To wit, terrible acting...
Nearly everyone, Asia Argento included, overacts their asses off in Mother of Tears. In my most recent session with the movie, I flinched during each instance of terrible acting. Any time Asia's character cried "MOMMY!" to the specter of her dead mother... Any time members of Mater Lachrymarum's coven of Hocus Pocus rejects were seen walking down the street, talking in loud, idiotic voices... Any time Mater Lachrymarum questioned one of her cronies on the whereabouts of her nemesis... I grimaced. I'm accustomed to bad acting in English-language Italian movies, but Mother of Tears achieves an all-time low in horrible performances.
Although not as crushing of a blow, the film also features some pretty awful music. For a man like Argento, who usually sets his films to either fantastic synth work, aurally pleasing operas, or amazing classical pieces, this is a huge step back. Many of the cuts from the soundtrack sound like music obtained from a Halloween CD purchased at a dollar store. However, there are also some points where the music isn't half bad, such as certain segments of the main theme.
And yet for all of my grumbling, somehow I can't call Mother of Tears awful. From a B-movie perspective, I'd say it's a wash. It's got the forbidden material and is almost a fun flick, but the terrible acting and music cheapen the experience. Even if I were to call it a good-bad movie, I expect better from Dario Argento. This is coming from a guy who enjoyed less popular Argento movies like The Stendahl Syndrome and The Card Player, to boot.
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