"Mother Of Tears" is Dario Argento's long-awaited follow-up to "Suspiria" (1977) and "Inferno" (1980) and is the third part of his "Three Mothers" trilogy.
"MOT" begins with the discovery of an ancient urn in Viterbo Cemetery, in Rome. The Monsignor sends the urn with a letter to his friend Michael Pierce (Adam James), who is the curator of a local museum. When the urn arrives at the museum, Michael is not around but two of his colleagues, Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) and Giselle Mares (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni), are enveloped by an overriding sense of curiosity about it and decide to open the urn in Michael's absence. This is akin to opening Pandora's Box because the urn belongs to The Mother Of Tears (or Mater Lachrymarum, to give her her Latin name), an ancient witch with evil powers, and opening it causes all Hell to break loose. Shortly after opening the urn and discovering its strange contents, Giselle is brutally murdered in the museum by a bunch of Mater Lachrymarum's demonic disciples (there aren't too many movies that show someone being strangled with their own intestines). Sarah witnesses her colleague's death but she manages to escape after hearing a strange, distant voice and a series of locked doors in the musuem corridors miraculously open. Later, she tells the police what happened but they are more than a little sceptical.
Meanwhile, in Rome, people are committing random acts of brutality, rape and murder (but isn't that just a normal day in Rome?) and the forces of evil begin to gather. Can Sarah, with the assistance of the spirit of her dead mother (Daria Nicolodi), find the lair of The Mother of Tears and stop her from spreading her evil throughout the world? Her quest leads her to various locations and strange characters who usually end up being gruesomely murdered after she meets them. Sarah eventually finds the large old building that is home to the witch and her followers but can she find a way of defeating them?
Let me get straight to the point in my assessment of "MOT". It is a MASSIVE disappointment and is nowhere near in the same class as "Suspiria" and "Inferno". Dario should have made this film in the early 1980s, shortly after "Inferno", when he was at the peak of his powers as a writer and director. Why he waited so long (nearly 30 years) to make this third installment is anybody's guess. "Suspiria" and "Inferno" had great style, were visually stunning and contained some remarkable set-pieces. Alas, this is not the case with "MOT". The use of music in these films is also very important. "Suspiria" had a terrifying and highly-original score by the rock band Goblin and "Inferno" featured a superb orchestral score by Keith Emerson. Unfortunately, the score for "MOT", by the usually-reliable Claudio Simonetti, often sounds like a poor pastiche of Jerry Goldsmith's music for "The Omen". With "Suspiria" and "Inferno" Dario showed great inventiveness as a director. His use of colour and lighting in these films is dazzling and he possesses the rare ability to make even the most mundane scenes seem interesting. His directorial style in "MOT" seems heavy-handed in comparison.
"MOT" is Dario Argento at his most frustrating and annoying because his fans and critics know that he is capable of producing things so much better than this. Prior to "MOT" I would have said that Dario Argento's worst film was his 1998 version of "The Phantom Of The Opera" but at least that film had a fine music score by Ennio Morricone. "MOT" has virtually no redeeming qualities at all and contains some of Dario's daftest ideas since his 1984 film "Phenomena" (a.k.a. "Creepers"). Are modern horror film audiences really expected to swallow the fact that Sarah, a museum worker, can suddenly make herself invisible? Some of the acting in "MOT" is atrocious. Adam James as Michael is exceptionally bad and some of the actors that play the witch's disciples are pretty dire too (one of them looks like former Serie A football referee, Pier Luigi Collina) and they are more laughable than scary. The normally beautiful and sexy Asia Argento looks awful in this film. Was she deliberately meant to appear haggard-looking? Some of Argento's previously-used actors and actresses come off the best in terms of the acting honours in this movie - namely Udo Kier, Daria Nicolodi and Coralina Cataldi-Tassori, but they all only appear very briefly. In my opinion, Dario would have been better off not making this film at all rather than waiting this long to make it. It contains none of the flair that Dario became noted for with his classic giallo films and horror movies of the 1970s and 1980s. Will we ever see again from Dario another film as good as his last truly great work "Opera" (1987), I wonder?
If you are a fan of Argento's work then you will still probably want to check out "MOT" and make your own mind up about it but, I for one, was very disappointed and saddened by it.