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Evil Unleashed Begets Gore Galore: “Mother of Tears”

July 25, 2008

By Susan Dunne, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

Jul. 25–”Mother of Tears” is a delicious chunk of cheese, a stylish and entertaining crock of old-style horror-genre schlock. Seeing such a relic in the era of torture porn is almost quaint, even as ceremonial daggers are cutting into orifices and entrails are sliding around the floor.

Italian auteur Dario Argento’s final installment in his “Three Mothers” trilogy, which began with “Suspiria” and “Inferno,” goes for camp this time around. The story begins — where else? — in a graveyard, where a 19th-century funerary urn is being dug up. It is sent away to a museum in Rome, where Sarah (Argento’s daughter, Asia Argento) works. Then Sarah watches as her colleague is murdered by men who seem to emerge out of the urn, assisted by a shrieking monkey.

In the days following, an unprecedented wave of suicides, murders and senseless violence sweeps through Rome. People crowd churchyards, begging to be exorcised. Goth chicks descend on Rome from airplanes, buses and taxis, traveling in packs and cackling at the cruelties they inflict on innocent passers-by.

Of course, there is ancient lettering and clueless cops. Of course, there are priests who know everything and die before they can tell all. Of course, all-purpose cinema weirdo Udo Kier shows up, as do pretty women showing off their pretty breasts. Of course, there are spears, lesbian witches, candle-lit expanses filled with shifting shadows. There’s even a smattering of simplistic theology — “What you see does not exist. What you cannot see is truth” — that promises wisdom but, in the grand scheme, does nothing but enhance the cheeseball setup.

That the plot sounds a lot like ” Harry Potter” — Sarah turns out to have witchcraft powers she did not realize, because her parents died standing up to the world’s most evil sorcerer, so she is the only one who can defeat that sorcerer — adds to its kitschy appeal.

It’s all a hoot. In the most serious moments, you’ll find yourself giggling (as when Sarah tells her friend to stop smoking because “it’s bad for you,” after she witnessed several grisly slayings).

Even the suddenness of the ending is funny, as if the director knows that all of the genre bases have been covered and there is nothing left to do except end the movie and send the audience home.

Dario Argento’s hard-core fans may be taken aback by this straight-faced riff. They need to just ride with it. He is loosening up and having fun here. He wants us to have fun, too.

MOTHER OF TEARS is a Myriad Pictures release of a film directed by Dario Argento, from a screenplay by Argento and Jace Anderson. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated R for gore, language, sexuality, nudity. Opens today at Real Art Ways.

Contact Susan Dunne at sdunne@courant.com

—-*–Classic; —-Excellent; —-Good; –Fair; –Poor; –Don’t bother

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