Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mother of Tears and The Burning

Mother of Tears is the third film in the Maestro's lauded Three Mothers trilogy begun in 1977 with Suspiria and continued in 1980's Inferno. I've been looking forward to this film very eagerly for the past few years, especially after Dario Argento directed those two Masters of Horror episodes ("Jenifer" and "Pelts.") I was hoping with how great "Pelts" was that he'd found the key to his creative freedom after being chained down for so long with Italian television. Maybe THIS will be the key he needs and his next film, Giallo, will be utterly fantastic (though not written by him...again.)
Mother of Tears reunites Argento with his daughter, Asia, and her mother, Daria Nicolodi with a script written by Argento with Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch (along with Walter Fasano and Simona Simonetti, according to the IMDb as they go uncredited in the film.)
I wonder how much different, and better, the film would have been if Dario and Nicolodi had written it, like they did Suspiria, instead of the American team of Anderson and Gierasch. The film was good for the first hour or so and it felt like the Maestro got his groove back. The hour and change mark passed on the read-out and I was thinking that it's building up to what was going to be one mother of a blow-out between Mater Lachrymarum and Asia's Sarah Mandy.
Boy, was I let down.
I wasn't expecting Suspiria or Inferno, okay? Dario's in a different place now than he was when he made the first two flicks in his career defining trilogy (of his most recent flicks, The Stendhal Syndrome is probably my favourite even though it's intensely disturbing on a father-daughter level...if you rent or buy it, make sure to get the Blue Underground release.) After all the hype of this being his most visually disturbing work yet, I was expecting to have my mind utterly blown. It was decidedly un-blown. In fact, my mind is rather more like "Really? That's it? Really?!"
There may be two reasons for this:
one) Fangoria, in their desire to be the kick ass magazine they really are, gave away simply too much information in the articles and the photos. I've stopped reading the articles for movies I want to see, and for remakes of movies I want to see, because I'm afraid they'll kill the whole thing for me.
two) Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch. I didn't like Toolbox Murders and had a bad feeling about their involvement with the last film of the trilogy, but Dario kept talking them up and so I thought, "I don't want to be unfair so I'll wait and see." Well, I waited, and I've seen, and I'm wholly unimpressed. That doesn't mean that the Maestro is blameless, but his scripts are usually a little stilted when translated into English anyway...but not like this.
Okay, now that I've got that out of the way, let's talk about the good stuff:
The direction: It felt like an old school Argento film, but with a couple of decades of learning behind it. The way it should be, in my humble opinion.
The acting: The movie rests on the shoulders of Dario's daughter, Asia. Unfortunately, the script has a weak third act compounded by a defenseless heroine. It was frustrating, actually. There could have been an amazing character arc if they'd just had that final showdown of Sarah Mandy facing off against Mater Lachrymarum...but there I go about the writing again. That has nothing to do with her performance, Asia simply performed what was on the page and did a good job.

The effects: There was very little use of CGI, which is wonderful, and the practical effects were very strong. The set pieces were very Argento in their strangely beautiful brutality.
The score: Other than some misplaced music cues, the score by long time Argento collaborator and Goblin member Claudio Simonetti was just on this side of too much and, thus, perfect. I thought I heard a little bit of Suspiria in the soundtrack at one point, but I'm not sure.
The cinematography: The colour scheme isn't as strong as in Suspiria and Inferno, but the look and style is close enough to its predecessors that it fits right in. The colours were rich and the blacks were deep. The lighting was nice, especially in Lachrymarum's house and its catacombs.
Overall: A disappointing ending bruises the rest of the film. Now that I've seen it, I'd like to watch it again in a few months or whatever, perhaps alongside the rest of the trilogy. Maybe I'll have a better appreciation for it at that point. I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't seen the other two film or as an introduction to Argento...either Argento...
The Burning is a Friday the 13th ripoff from 1981 written and produced by Bob and Harvey Weinstein and starring a bunch of Holly Hunter in a blink-n-miss her role as the camper named Sophia as well as Fisher Stevens and Jason Alexander as a couple of misfit campers.
The movie is crap, but not the worst F13 ripoff I've ever seen, with some surprisingly good cinematography and great effects courtesy Tom Savini. Let's be honest, his work is the real star of this movie about a camp caretaker named Cropsy who was left horribly scarred after being caught in a fire that was the result of a prank gone wrong. After five years of being in hospital, Cropsy finally leaves and starts painting the town, and the forest, red.
As far as I can tell, the best reason for this movie to be around is for filmmakers who are about to be screwed royally by the Weinsteins to say, "What the hell are you talking about, man? I've seen The Burning. Leave my flick alone." I think that if Romero and Craven had seen this flick before signing up with them, Diary of the Dead would have had a better theatrical release and Cursed would have been left alone to be bad or good on its own feet, not on the feet of two brothers who live their filmmaking dreams vicariously through whoever they can mow down. The earliest title I can remember hearing about them screwing around with was an article in a 1992 issue of Fangoria about Richard Stanley's beleaguered Dust Devil.
Overall: Eh. If you love Savini's effects work, this is worth a look. If you really like slasher flicks, this is worth a look. If you're looking for a really good flick, this isn't worth a look.


NoelCT said...

I'm sorry. I just haven't been able to get into Dario Argento. I've seen 7 of his films, mostly at the urging of friends, and found myself shaking my head through most of them.

Yes, they're beautifully shot, with wild scores and some wickedly clever deaths, but I've always been more of a story mechanics guy and I find his scripts horribly contrived, often acting as little more than week chains to string the story from one death to another. And his characters are little more than props that he tosses around like a child with a box of action figures.

Yes, there is some stunning spectacle in his films. But spectacle for the sake of spectacle just doesn't cut it for me.

That's not to attack you and your tastes. Different things appeal to different people. While it's a film I have little interest in seeing, I am sorry to hear it disappointed you, a fan.

- -

Boy, you aren't kidding about the Weinsteins. Every other genre aside, their treatment of dozens of Hong Kong kung fu flicks has been so scandalous, nearly the entire industry of that nation has vowed to never again sell them a film. They're nothing but a pair of leeches.

Lori said...


About Dario Argento: I totally get where you're coming from. I know his stories are sometimes pretty hackneyed, but they still send spikes into the creative part of my brain in ways quite a few other directors don't. *shrugs*


I've seen quite a few of the Weinstein's hatchet jobs on kung fu flicks, mostly Jackie Chan's work...makes me sick.

Trav28 said...

I have to admit I enjoyed it more than I should have. It was one of the better films he has made post Opera.

Lori said...


I dunno...I love The Stendhal Syndrome and Trauma was okay, but in my opinion, from Phantom of the Opera on he went really downhill. Mother of Tears was a definite step up, but still a little disappointing.