The Mother of Tears (Moran Atlas) lets it all hang out.
There is a very vocal camp among horror movie fans that finds the efforts of writer/director Dario Argento to be the finest work produced in the realm of Italian horror cinema, and while that may be true it’s an assessment that doesn’t really say all that much since the vast majority of Italian horror movies suck ass. I’ve never been much of a fan of Argento’s work — I’m a Mario Bava man — but I have to give him credit for crafting movies that are coherently filmed and clearly identifiable as the work of a singular creator with a visceral vision. That said, MOTHER OF TEARS is the final chapter of Argento’s “Three Mothers” witchcraft trilogy, a series consisting of the classic SUSPIRIA (1977, the commercial for which was far scarier than anything found in the actual movie, in my humble opinion) and INFERNO (1980) and though the evil witches found in those flicks were quite decisively dealt with, the most malevolent of the lot is the focus of this final installment. All of which is well and good in the eyes of the horror-hungry, but this film unintentionally (?) stands as concrete proof that Argento has either completely lost his goddamned mind of he just plain does not give a flying fuck anymore. In fact, MOTHER OF TEARS can best be summed up as “Dario Argento goes bullmoose insane and makes a Lucio Fulci movie.”
or a red piece of attire found in the urn that amounts to a magic t-shirt which comes just short of completely exposing her witchy nether parts.
By the time that Sarah gets to the witch’s underground lair, we’ve witnessed graphic eye-gougings, disembowelings, an immolation, throat-slashings, demonic possession, cannibalism (as if you needed more proof that you were watching an Italian horror flick), torture of church officials and a vaginal impalement with a seven-foot spear (which is literally shoved out of the recipient’s mouth), so we’re within our rights to expect a suitably apocalyptic battle between good witch Sarah and the Mother and her minions, but after all the hype about Sarah’s powers being the key to winning the day all we get is Sarah ripping off the Mother’s magic t-shirt and dumping it onto an open brazier. That move results in an impromptu earthquake (?), the routing of the minions, and what I believe was the enormous spire of a church simultaneously running through and squashing the buck-nekkid Mother of Tears. Sarah and the cop who was leading the manhunt after her escape through catacombs filled with raw sewage, and when they make it to the surface they’re suddenly clean (symbolism?) and sit there laughing like a couple of mental patients. Then, before we’re offered any kind of real conclusion or are even told that the world has been set to right, the credits abruptly roll to the accompaniment of some really bad heavy metal song. Reminiscent as it was of the ending of Lucio Fulci’s THE GATES OF HELL (1980), the finale left me sitting there gobsmacked for a few moments before I exclaimed, “What the fuck did I just watch???”
I have not seen all of Argento’s films but I think it’s a safe bet to say that MOTHER OF TEARS is easily his most over-the-top and nonsensical work, featuring a plot that makes virtually no sense and revels in the kind of gore that his lesser-talented contemporaries relied upon in lieu of Argento’s directorial talents. Compounding the rampaging idiocy on hand is the fact that the film was shot in English, and the consequent delivery by a cast that presumably for the most part doesn’t speak the language ranges from emotionless to downright hilarious; the very idea that Asia Argento is supposed to be playing an American is ludicrous enough thanks to her blatantly native Italian looks, but the accent heard whenever she speaks brings to mind gondolas and the beautiful hills of wine country rather than someplace like Newark, New Jersey.
But despite its myriad flaws, MOTHER OF TEARS is definitely a must-see for the spectacle of what can happen when all reason flees an acclaimed director and he lets his most questionable ideas run rampant across the screen. In fact, I’d rate MOTHER OF TEARS as Argento’s analog to Ken Russell’s THE FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER; sure it’s a piece of galloping horse shit, but this is a steaming turd that simply has to be seen to believed, so I recommended it to any and all willing to take the chance.
(Oh, and for the record: the vaginal spearing occurs while the character on the receiving end of it is clad in a shift so there’s no nudity, and that makes it even worse thanks to our imaginations filling in the obvious details with imagery probably worse than anything Argento could have actually shown us.)
Theatrical release poster.