On a patch next to a chapel graveyard which is being dug up by workmen, a coffin is discovered which is bound to a smaller wooden box. The archbishop is called over and asks for the coffin to be opened, and as you might expect a body is found inside, but the box holds more questions. He orders it to be sent to his quarters, then posts it on to the Museum of Ancient Art in Rome, where he believes it will be useful. So it is that one night soon Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) is working late there when her colleague invites her to take a look at the contents of the box. But they soon find out the mistake they are making when dark forces are unleashed...
Thirty years after the first in director Dario Argento's Three Mothers trilogy, Suspiria, and twenty-seven after its sequel, Inferno, the final instalment arrived, but was it worth the wait? For many fans, the gap between the films had resulted in a loss of momentum, and perhaps it would have been better if this had been released in 1983 - that is quite a gap, after all. Working from a script by five people, including himself, Argento appeared to be taking his cue from his nineties and twenty-first century style, which even the most generous of his followers would have to admit was not up to scratch.
Certainly compared to the delirium of his thrillers and horrors of the seventies and eighties, Mother of Tears, or La Terza Madre as it was known in Italian, was lacking, but many were hoping the association with those previous films of his heyday would at least provide some of that old (black) magic that distinguished him from his less talented peers. And there are a few sequences here that nod towards the giddy strangeness and intensity of before, but only a nod. As out heroine, Asia makes for a surprisingly grumpy protagonist, not too shocking when you see what happens to her, but with a more genial personality at its heart we might have had more to cheer for.
In comparison to the goth girls who flock to Rome as a result of the dark forces being let loose, Sarah is a right old miseryguts, which you don't expect with goths, but these ones are frequently laughing their heads off at the slightest opportunity. A few hundred of them might have been enough to strike fear into the hearts of the audience, similarly the amount of Romans being sent violently insane by the evil in the air, but there's never the sense that this is a city under siege from the bad guys, which is mainly due to how impoverished the film appears.
Indeed, there might be some over the top gore, but even that is used sparingly in sequences that are more silly than anything else. What isn't used sparingly are the explanations of the history behind the Three Mothers, as the film often grinds to a halt so Sarah can be filled in on yet another bit of backstory, and even then these are illustrated by turning pages or even a selection of ink drawings by way of flashback (couldn't afford to film the storyboards, eh?). As for the finale where that mean mother is finally confronted, any tension is effectively defused by the lead up to it which features Sarah wandering around in the dark of the villains' mansion house base for what must be ten minutes. Cameos by Udo Kier (a priest warning of "Ze Muzzah auf Tee-ahz!") and Daria Nicolodi (particularly absurd as Sarah's ghostly "Mummy") serve to remind one of past glories, but they're about all that do here. It's easy enough to watch, but less than exciting, pedestrian even. Music by Claudio Simonetti (who's not working at his strongest, either).
Italian horror maestro who began his film career as a critic, before moving into the world of screenwriting, collaborating most notably with Sergio Leone and Bernardo Bertolucci on the script of Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West (1968). Argento's first film as director, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) set the template for much of his subsequent work - inventive camerawork, sly wit, violent murder set-pieces, and a convoluted whodunnit murder plot. He perfected his art in this genre with Deep Red in 1975, before proceeding to direct the terrifying Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980), the first two parts of a loose trilogy of supernatural chillers that were finally completed with Mother of Tears in 2007.
Since then, Argento has pretty much stuck to what he knows best, sometimes successfully with Tenebrae and Opera, sometimes, usually in the latter half of his career, less so (Trauma, Sleepless, Dracula), but always with a sense of malicious style.