"Mother of Tears," directed by Dario Argento, brings to life a nasty witch and some gruesome scenarios, but doesn't hold up to others in the "Three Mothers" trilogy.
This one is a mother, all right: A woman gets her teeth knocked out and strangled with her own intestines — by demons — inside the first 10 minutes.
“Mother of Tears” is Italian horror legend Dario Argento’s wrap-up to the “Three Mothers” trilogy that he began in 1977 with “Suspiria” and continued in 1980 with “Inferno.” Fans of Argento, Eurohorror and its giallo subgenre — or members of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America — will find plenty rewarding in it. Better-adjusted viewers might find the hard-core gore too much to take, the acting and dialogue distractingly bad and the plot swinging between sketchy and silly. (The former groups don’t necessarily see the latter points as negatives, by the way.)
The maestro’s daughter Asia stars (and has a shower scene — hurk) as art restorer Sarah Mandy, on the run from the supernatural after that dental/intestinal incident happens to a colleague at Rome’s Museum of Ancient Art. They’d opened a centuries-old urn that contained a tunic and statuettes, and awakened Mater Lacrimarum, aka the Mother of Tears, the last and nastiest of three powerful witches.
Now the city is in a pandemonium of possession. A mom chucks her baby over a bridge, a guy whacks a car senseless, and people are beating and raping each other with abandon. The Mother and her underlings (which include an unpleasant monkey) are looking for Sarah, whose own dead white-witch mother (Daria Nicolodi, Asia’s real-life mom) pops up periodically to do two things: Get her out of jams and let her know she’s got powers of her own. With the help of her curator boyfriend (Adam James), an old priest (Udo Kier, also in “Suspiria”), a nutty alchemist (Philippe Leroy) and a cop (Cristian Solimeno), Sarah must eventually stop running and face the Mother’s horrors — two of which appear to be implants, as she is an enthusiastic nudist.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- 'Thor: Love and Thunder' review: A Marvel movie so unworthy to wield Thor's hammer, it barely tries to lift it
- Now streaming: 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' available on VOD, 'Black Bird' on Apple TV+ and more
- Fans asked to pray after Carlos Santana collapses in concert
- Tony Award-winning 'Hadestown' comes to Seattle
- New Netflix documentary series 'D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!' reexamines an infamous folk legend
The lunatic journey is funnier on paper than it comes off on-screen, for the most part. (An ’80s-looking occult girl gang doesn’t help.) While Asia isn’t a terrific actress (see “Land of the Dead”), she looks naturally strung-out enough that it’s not like you’re watching a Hollywood model/starlet whom you sort of want to root against. Some of the scenarios dad Argento concocts are admirably bizarre and creepy, and he still knows a thing or two about building tension. But it’s not in the same class with “Suspiria” and “Inferno,” both lit and production-designed like the most gorgeous red-and-purple slasher nightmares you’ll ever have. By the same token, it’s heavier on exposition and clearer to follow.
In his own way, Argento has become like John Waters, a seriously messed-up, transgressive artist who’s now a revered Old Master of Filth. He’s not at the peak of his powers, but at least you can be certain he’s not going to turn any of his work into Broadway musicals — which really would be horrifying.