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Mother of Tears (2007)

Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Asia Argento, Moran Atias, Christian Solimeno, Adam James, Daria Nicolodi, Udo Kier
Not Rated 102 minutes

Thirty years after it began, Dario Argento brings his "Three Mothers" trilogy to a close with MOTHER OF TEARS. What might have been another fascinating and visually arresting journey into the supernatural, instead turned out to be one of the most maddening films of the Italian director's long career.

The discovery of a box containing strange artifacts heralds the return of Mater Lachrymarum, the final and most terrible of the Three Mothers. Lachrymarum's arrival sends Rome into chaos as her presence transforms normally mild-mannered people into violent and destructive maniacs. Amidst all the craziness, an American woman named Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) discovers she is being pursued by the Third Mother's minions, which include a posse of cackling witches and a monkey. As Sarah soon finds out, she is the daughter of a powerful "good" witch (Daria Nicolodi) and is the only person who has the power to stop Lachrymarum's quest for world domination. With her deceased mother aiding her from the great beyond,  Sarah teams up with a skeptical cop to do battle with the incredibly sexy, but incredibly evil, Mother of Tears.

MOTHER OF TEARS is shocking for reasons completely unrelated to the film's gratuitous nudity and gore - there is almost nothing here that bears the mark of the "old" Dario Argento that made the previous films in the trilogy. Argento's horror outings were unique experiences that bore his signature: a sumptuous color palette, painstakingly composed visuals, a camera that became part of the action, and a flair for tense, startling, yet beautiful, scenes of violence. Of course, plot often took a backseat to the power of the visuals, so nonsensical dialogue and story developments were never far away. Here, the only thing left is the nonsensical. Aside from a shot or two, MOTHER OF TEARS looks flat and uninteresting when compared to SUSPIRIA and INFERNO. Even more disappointing was Argento's decision to forego style and tension in favor of explicit gore and nudity. The film's first murder scene, which involves a woman being strangled with her own intestines, is so over-the-top gory, the effect is more comical than frightening. It sets an uneasy tone the film that it never recovers from. So when we see things like a mother throwing her baby (an obvious doll) off a bridge, or a witch having her head crushed with a train door, you're going to find yourself laughing at film, more often than not.

One of the reasons this film was so greatly anticipated was the news that Argento was reuniting with some of his key collaborators from his glory days. You have Daria Nicolodi (Argento's ex and mother of Asia who co-wrote and starred in DEEP RED), Claudio Simonetti (ex-Goblin) handling the score, and Sergio Stivaletti (DEMONS, PHENOMENA, OPERA, and many, many more) in charge of the film's effects. What went wrong? Everything, it seems.  This, without question, is Argento's silliest movie. Coming from a person who absolutely adores his often despised 1985 film, PHENOMENA, that's saying a lot. There are many points in the film where I was convinced that Argento had set out to make a comedy instead of a horror film.  Asia Argento is terrible as the film's heroine and seems like she probably did this as a favor to her old man. Daria Nicolodi appears briefly in a very weird scene, and Udo Kier is wasted in a throwaway role that becomes nothing more than a vehicle for another Stivaletti gore effect. The story and dialogue is about as silly as you'd expect from an Argento movie. Sadly, this time around there's nothing for those elements to fall back on.

One's appreciation for this movie will ultimately depend on how you approach it. If you treat it as a campy, trashy Euro-horror flick, there's more than enough here to make you happy. However, as the final chapter in Argento's legendary trilogy, MOTHER OF TEARS is a terrible disappointment.

2.5 out of 5.