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An ancient urn is found in a cemetery outside Rome. Once opened, it triggers a series of violent incidents: robberies, rapes and murders increase dramatically, while several mysterious, evil-looking young women coming from all over the world are gathering in the city. All these events are caused by the return of Mater Lacrimarum, the last of three powerful witches who have been spreading terror and death for centuries. Alone against an army of psychos and demons, Sarah Mandy, an art student who seems to have supernatural abilities of her own, is the only person left to prevent the Mother of Tears from destroying Rome. Written by
Music by Claudio Simonetti
Lyrics by Dani Filth
Performed by Daemonia (Claudio Simonetti: keyboards, Bruno Previtali: guitar, Federico Amorosi: bass, Titta Tani: drums)
Vocal featuring Dani Filth by courtesy of Roadrunner Records
Published by Simonetti Productions S.a.s./Cradle of Filth Music Ltd/Market s.r.l. See more »
As the opening credits rolled by in the midst of medieval drawings, I couldn't help but wonder to myself. Is this it? Could this be it? Is this the long awaited return of the undisputed king of horror to his rightful throne? All the marks were on the wall. Asia Argento returns to the fold, and so does Claudio Simonetti (the mastermind behind Goblin and their beautiful scores for Profondo Rosso, Tenebre and Suspiria among others), Daria Nicolodi (Profondo Rosso, Inferno, Tenebre, Opera and writer of Suspiria), Coralina Cataldi Tassoni (Opera), Udo Kier (Suspiria), Sergio Stivaletti (Argento's regular SFX man since Opera) and his brother Claudio Argento producing. As if this first class ensemble from the Argento universe wasn't enough, the first tracking shot through a graveyard and above a door screams Argento and I can't help but wonder. Is this really it? As the rest of the movie unfolds, the first thing that becomes quickly obvious is that La Terza Madre is definitely not a throwback to his colourful 70's days. This is neither Suspiria nor Inferno and perhaps Argento wisely decided to distance stylistically the closing chapter of his Three Mothers trilogy instead of emulating his vintage style (and risking failure?). The movie is decidedly darker, with a DV kind of look that brings to mind his last couple of works and subtle yet effective lighting that reminded me of Mario Bava circa Black Sabbath. Not a bad thing, aye? A medieval urn that is discovered in the cemetery of Viterbo heralds the coming of the Third Mother, the powerful witch Mater Lachrimarum. As Rome is plunged into utter chaos with people committing random acts of violence in the streets, Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) is called to battle this ancient evil.
Story-wise La Terza Madre is typically Argento-ish. Occasionally nonsensical, with a relatively weak climax that doesn't mesh well with the build-up that leads up to it and very sketchy character development and motivation. But if you're a member of the Rosso Brigades and a sworn Argento hooligan you won't let that stop you. You never did, right? This is Argento and you don't expect profound drama from his idiosynchratic blood operas. That's not why you come back for more every time. You know his stories are mere skeletons for him to hang on his stunning imagery and violence. It's the style, the set pieces, the masterful way that visuals mesh with the score, the intricate build ups that lead to beautifully staged gore. You come to his movies for that pure cinema that no one else can deliver. You always did, right?
So will you find it here? I can safely say that yes... yes you will goddammit! Of course it is not Profondo Rosso and neither Suspiria or Tenebre, but for those who have followed his career closely the past 10 years that's hardly a big surprise. This is Argento2k. Visually darker but soaked in blood and entrails and atmospheric as all get out. There's an apocalyptic air about it and combined with Simonetti's decidedly more dark-wave score (it has evolved from the 70's in similar ways as Argento has visually), it manages to be chilling enough for most of the duration. Also this may very well be his most violent and gory film to date. There are several long drawn out death scenes, gruesome and stylish that will please every blood hound out there. And the atmosphere is as dark and nightmarish as one would expect from the subject matter. Closer to Sleepless than Suspiria overall, but definitely rewarding and head and shoulders above most Hollywood horrors this decade.
Now for the bad. I didn't like the CGI. It's not that it's badly done. Far from it actually. Compared to the horrible CGI of movies with 10 times its budget like I Am Legend and The Mist, La Terza Madre is OK. I just happen to think that CGI generally cheapens a movie. So there are moments that one may find a bit silly or cheesy (such as a spectral Daria Nicolodi hovering in the air), but not as bad as other efforts. Also the climax is a bit unrewarding. After a series of gruesome gore scenes the ending is a bit too hastily put together. And the Mother of Tears is just not menacing or chilling enough. Another actress (decidedly older) should have played the part in this reviewer's opinion. Also the dialogue and character decisions may appear a bit childish or nonsensical, but again that's something I can live with in an Argento movie.
As the ending credits rolled by I asked myself again. Is this it? Well... probably not. At least it is not a 70's throwback nor is it as monumental as Suspiria. It's the closure of old affairs with new style and attitude. Think how Sleepless upgraded his giallo style for the new millennium. La Terza Madre does the same for his supernatural horror. Personally speaking, I'm just glad he's still able to make a damn good horror movie. His 70's gems will always be there so the man gets carte blanche from me to take his style wherever he wants. As long as the results are this good I have no reason to complain. He's probably the last of the masters of horror from his generation that still has it in him. As far as I'm concerned, even mediocre Argento is better than 90% of today's horror. And this is very good Argento...
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