6 December 2015 | pieceoftime
A Mixed Bag of Italian Horror Sensibilities
It took me several viewings of Argento's final film in his Three Mothers trilogy before I finally arrived at a sure, albeit ambivalent, conclusion.
The "plot", as they call it, involves an ancient urn which causes the city of Rome to erupt into violence. Robbery and murder run amok and it's all the result of Mater Lachrymarum (the Mother of Tears.) It's ultimately up to a young art student by the name of Sarah Mandy to stop the chaos.
Asia Argento plays the role of Sarah. I don't think Asia is without talent (I enjoyed her performances in Trauma and the Stendhal Syndrome – two earlier Argento efforts.) But while she shouldn't entirely be held at fault here, her performance isn't exactly great. She frequently comes across as wooden, although I believe much of this is a result of the poor dialogue. And perhaps more importantly, her wooden delivery and still fairly thick Italian accent give the proceedings quite a bit of charm. I wouldn't say her performance enhances the film, but I suppose her looks are enough to keep the film going. Adam James' character is boring and not at all engaging; this is true even when we're given the chance to poke fun at him. He does nothing for me, and, at best, is forgettable. And then there's Udo Kier. Doing what he does best, he's over the top enough to be memorable, but he somehow never crosses into "too ridiculous" territory. His screen time is short but worthwhile.
One of Mother of Tear's saving graces is its gore. Gone is Germano Natali's (Deep Red, Suspiria) garish, paint-like blood (excellent in its own right); instead, Argento opts for a more Fulci-esque display of bloody mayhem. The camera lingers on every moment of gory detail. Argento has rarely been this brutal; there are plenty of memorable moments for gore hounds and the film's first big sequence is a perfect example.
Mother of Tears' soundtrack frequently pays homage to Argento's past supernatural related works. The music during the aforementioned first murder sequence is a clear nod to Suspiria's over-the-top, yet haunting operatic music. And later scenes do more than enough to hint at Inferno's piano-based instrumentals. Overall, the film does a good job score-wise.
From a visual standpoint, Mother of Tears is hardly lacking. It may not have the Technicolor look of Suspiria or the nuanced production design of Inferno, but it's hardly dull. It takes some of the artsy indoor/outdoor scenes of The Stendhal Syndrome and combines it with the more elaborate set-pieces found in previous "mother" films.
Overall, Mother of Tears is a mixed bag. It has its boring moments, but it's also a good example of Italian Horror's love for grandeur and charming carelessness toward what is considered logical or politically correct. Those comparing it to films of Argento's golden era need to stop living in the past. Mother of Tears has its great moments and not so great moments and it is neither a failure nor a rousing success. If you're a fan of 80s "godfather of gore" era Fulci and take into account the 21st century's distinct lack of anything Giallo/Italian Horror-related, Mother of Tears is worth a watch.