The Mother of Tears : blood, guts, and entertainment
Italian filmmaker Dario Argento is hailed by film geeks as a pioneer of bloody horror movies. In fact, he is even proclaimed a master of gore by the title character in everyone’s favorite teen pregnancy comedy, Juno. While my fellow film nerds have given him a cult following, his newest film, The Mother of Tears, should appeal to all audiences who love gallons of fake blood and guts.
The Mother of Tearsmarks the long-awaited final chapter in a trilogy which started way back in 1977 with Suspiria, a film that ranked #18 in Entertainment Weekly’s list of the “Top 25 Scariest Movies of All Time”.
Like Suspiria, this new film features one of Argento’s “Three Mothers”, a trio of witches trying to wreak havoc on the world. This time, it’s the Mother of Tears A.K.A. Mater Lachrymarum, a villain who looks less like the wrinkled fairy tale witch from Snow White and more like something out of Penthouse.
The Mother’s power is unleashed when unassuming archaeologist Sarah Mandy, played by the director’s daughter Asia Argento, opens an urn containing what seems to be the red bedazzled t-shirt of evil. This sets off a chain of events involving ghastly murders, a gaggle of young punk witches who look like they’re on a goth spring break tour, a quick walk through some kind of sewer and even a crazy blood orgy or two.
It seems like the kind of film that’s easy to make fun of–and it is–but that’s not to say it itsn’t an enjoyable ride for anyone who doesn’t mind seeing over-the-top violence or buckets of fake blood.
Interestingly, The Mother of Tears seems to be a controversial subject for Argento die-hards who regard him as the Italian Alfred Hitchcock. While some embrace the “evolution” in both narrative and visual style, others slam the film for straying too far from the usual Argento parameters that inhabit the other two films in the “Three Mothers” series.
Unlike Suspiria, which was the last Technicolor film in history, Mother of Tears has a darker visual tone that is almost reminiscent of the noir films of the 1940s. The absence of overwhelming primary colors is one of the most cited topics by those who criticize the film, as is the integration of some computer graphic elements which were not yet invented at the time of the other films in the trilogy. People seem to forget that even Suspiriawas a break from the giallo genre that Argento helped to create.
This is not to say that none of the visual elements of Suspiria are absent. While the blood might not be as red, Argento still utilizes stalking Steadicam shots which build a bit of suspense before the inevitable fright.
In my opinion, Argento fans are taking it way too seriously. Instead of branding him the Italian Hitchcock, I would equate his latest film with fun horror movies of the William Castle variety. It’s not really about character development or well-explained narrative, it’s about blood, guts and entertainment, and Mother of Tears is certainly bloody and entertaining.
Since the film is only playing in a handful of cities, Denver residents have a unique opportunity to see a true “master of gore” at work. Be sure to catch the film while it lasts from June 27th to July 3rd at the Starz FilmCenter.
Read the New York Times write-up about Argento and Mother of Tears here.