Review: It’s all about evil

With gothic tones prevailing and schlock genes raging, Dario Argento is back, and the horror showman delivers considerable vim and viscera in his latest gorefest, “The Mother of Tears.” But the film’s distinguishing qualities end there.

The movie is both the final installment in Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy — following “Suspiria” (1977) and “Inferno” (1980) — and a stand-alone offering from the writer-director, who is known for making graphically horrific films that range from artful, almost penetrating chillers to sheer camp. This new good-vs.-evil tale is of the latter variety.

Asia Argento (Dario’s daughter) plays Sarah, a museum worker who sparks an avalanche of mayhem when she innocently breaks the seal of an ancient urn (the close-up on the knife shaving away wax is pure Dario Argento) and resurrects an ultra-mean witch, the Mother of Tears.

Murder, rape, suicide, disembowelment and general weirdness consequently plague Rome. A woman throws her baby off a bridge.

Sarah’s colleague is strangled by her own intestines. Witchy fashion plates and a vicious monkey pop up repeatedly.

Through her contact with a suspicious detective (Cristian Solimeo) and a strange priest (Udo Kier), Sarah learns she has special powers, courtesy of her dead white-witch mother. Pursued through landscapes of extreme violence and carnality, she heads for a face-off with the title character.

While not for everyone, Argento’s explicit material scores points for boldness in these days of timid cinema. And Argento’s kitchen-sink storytelling can be a kickdue to the filmmaker’s glee and vibrancy.

Visually, there’s little of the dazzling artistry of “Suspiria,” but Argento’s tacky depiction of hell (picture Bosch painting with ketchup) is surely singular.

Unfortunately, however, Argento suggests nothing truly menacing beneath his vivid surfaces, entrails, plasma, excrement, gouged eyes and other such ingredients alone add up to merely outrageous splash. The film doesn’t convey enough humanity in its characters, or suspense in their predicaments, to generate serious fear in the viewer over the danger involved.

The dialogue is silly, and Asia Argento, appearing lost in her father’s headlights, doesn’t give us a formidable protagonist. The supporting performances, most of them delivered in accented English, are generally laughable.

To his credit, Dario Argento doesn’t take the ridiculousness seriously, and the film certainly deserves a successful afterlife as midnight-movie fare. Until then, though, it’s easy to forgo this stuff from a force of filmmaking whose merits can be better experienced with a trip to a video store.

Movie review

The Mother of Tears (2 stars)

Starring Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeo, Udo Kier, Adam James

Written by Dario Argento, Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch

Directed by Dario Argento

Not rated

Running time 1 hour 40 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Syd Mandelbaum created the home run tracker, which revolutionized statistics in major league sports. (Courtesy photo)
Home run tracker, with roots at Candlestick Park, marks 30 years

When Giants first baseman Brandon Belt slugged a solo home run in… Continue reading

Talika Fletcher, sister of Roger Allen, is consoled at a vigil to honor her brother, who was killed by Daly City Police on April 7, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Supporters march for SF man killed by Daly City police

Struggle over fake gun ends in shooting of 44-year-old Roger Allen, DA says

Curfews on indoor dining have been lifted as The City continues to reopen business. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City to allow expanded indoor dining, limited indoor concerts and small conferences

With new COVID-19 cases remaining stable, San Francisco will continue to expand… Continue reading

Johnny Cueto P was the starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants against the Cinnanti Reds, Wednesday. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli/Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Cueto leaves with injury as Giants take series from Reds

A latissimus dorsi injury to Johnny Cueto cast a dark cloud over… Continue reading

Tenants’ rights laws are often mysterious and written in language that confuses. (Shutterstock)
It’s not a good time to be a bad landlord

Tenant Relief Act, at last, is one positive thing for renters

Most Read