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Inferno
Horror Infernal

Italy 1980
produced by
Claudio Argento, Salvatore Argento (executive), Guglielmo Garroni (executive) for Produzioni Intersound
directed by Dario Argento
starring Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, Eleonora Giorgi, Daria Nicolodi, Sacha Pitoeff, Alida Valli, Veronica Lazar, Gabriele Lavia, Deodor Chaliapin jr, Leopoldo Mastelloni, Ania Pieroni, James Fleetwood, Rosario Rigutini, Ryan Hilliard, Paolo Paoloni, Fulvio Mingozzi, Luigi Lodoli, Rodolfo Lodi
written by Dario Argento, music by Keith Emerson, orchestrated by Godfrey Salmon, special effects by Germano Natali, visual effects by Mario Bava, assistant director: Lamberto Bava

Dario Argento's Three Mothers

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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New York: Rose (Irene Miracle) learns from an old book, The Three Mothers, that her house might actually be one of the three haunted houses which are inhabited by the three mothers. She visits the antiques dealer (Sacha Pitoeff) she bought the book from, but he evades her questions, so she decides to investigate on her own, breaks into his cellar and finds a flooded extra room - that she finds to be full of corpses once she dives in ... and she almost doesn't make it out again. Once back home, Rose writes everything to her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey), who lives in Rome. However, Mark dosen't get to read her letter, only his girlfriend Sara (Eleonora Giorgi) does, and she decides to do a little investigation on her own, and she visits the house of the three mothers situated in Rome, a library where she finds the same old book Rose has been reading in and decides to snatch it. But when she wants to leave the place, she accidently stumbles into an alchemist's lab, and the alchemist realizes she has stolen the book and suddenly she finds herself on the run.

Back in her appartment, Sara calls Mark to come over immediately - but when he arrives, she has already been murdered ...

Mark receives a call from his sister Rose to come to New York immediately, however, not long after she has made the call, she is killed as well and her book is taken away by teh killer as well.

When Mark arrives at Rose's appartment, he doesn't find his sister but also no traces of her murder, only Rose's neighbour Elise (Daria Nicolodi) hints at it that there's something wrong ... but she doesn't last long either. Nor does the antiques dealer whom Mark next questions - he dies a particularly gruesome death being eaten up alive by rats.

Ultimately all hell breaks loose when the whole building goes up in flames and Mark, still in the building, faces a woman who calls herself the embodiment of the three mothers, but also of Death. However, Mark manages to save himself from the building, while Death goes up in flames (?).

 

On the plus side, Inferno is highly atmospheric and totally creepy, and Dario Argento (once again) shows why he is one of the best directors in the field and how playing with colours, music (both classical and progressive rock) and sound can create mood and menace. Mix this with some excellent suspense scenes and cleverly placed gore effects and you have got one effective shocker.

Having said that, Inferno falls several feet short from being a masterpiece though, mainly because it doesn't contain any real characters to identify with (usually not a problem of Argento's films). All the female characters in the film actually die before they can ever fully develop (that's not to say they are cannonfodder in the slasher kind of way, they just die to soon) while the male lead (Leigh McCloskey as Mark) stays totally bland throughout, and one can't help not caring for him - for which both the script and the totally uncharismatic McCloskey are to blame.

The other letdown of Inferno is of course its ending: after all the buildup the story had, it's actually quite disappointing that the lead villain, who turns out to be Death, accidently dies in a very common fire. I mean, how can Death die ?

That all said, Inferno is still a fascinating piece of horror cinema, it's just no genre masterpiece and shouldn't be viewed as one.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD

 

 

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