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Mother of Tears (2007)

Dimension Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/23/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/23/2008

Consistent quality in anything is difficult to maintain. This is especially noticeable in the show business when your every move is out on display for everyone to see. Thus, we see entertainers go through highs and lows and it can be depressing when a once great artist fails to reclaim their former glory. Such is the case of Dario Argento. The Italian master of horror made a name for himself in the 1970s with a string of artsy and violent movies. He became famous for his film's notable style and their unflinching portrayals of violence. But, Argento began to slip and he made his last great film in 1982 and his last watchable film in 1987. He's continued to work, but his movies have not only not lived up to his reputation, they simply haven't been good. Argento's best-known work is 1977's Suspiria, which was followed by a loosely-linked sequel, Inferno in 1980. When it was recently announced that Argento was going to finally make the third chapter in this series, fans around the world were excited. Well, Mother of Tears is finally here. Be prepared to be disappointed once again.

As Mother of Tears opens, a coffin is unearthed outside of the walls of a cemetery in Italy. The coffin is bound by chains which are lined with crucifixes. So, a priest decides to open it. He sends part of the discovery to a colleague, Michael Pierce (Adam James), who works at a museum in Rome. Michael is out when the package arrives, so Giselle Mares (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) and Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) decide to open it. They find it filled with odd statues and a shirt (which they keep calling a talisman). Suddenly, Giselle is attacked by monsters...and a monkey...and killed. Sarah manages to escape, but the police don't believe her story. She tries to get help from Michael, but he's too scared. So, as violence begins to escalate in Rome, Sarah begins to investigate for herself. She soon learns that a witch called Mater Lachrymarum (Moran Atias) has been unleashed and that she plans to spread evil throughout the land. Sarah does eventually find help, but how can she stop a 1,000 year old witch?

As noted above, it's been a while since Argento has made anything that I liked, but I thought that things may be different with the kind of expectations that fans would have about this particular film. But, I tried to be realistic. However, I never expected anything this bad. I had issues with Mother of Tears from the opening frame. You find a coffin OUTSIDE of the cemetery which is CHAINED and covered in CRUCIFIXES and a priest wants to open it? Seriously? No, you kick that thing back into the ground and build a mini-mall on top of it. Following this, a woman is attacked and disemboweled by a group of demons. That part I believe. What I don't believe is the monkey who is running around the museum. Why is there a monkey? Is it supposed to be scary? Is this a cultural thing? I'm not particularly fond of monkeys, but I'm not afraid of them...unless they have guns, and this one did not. Then, Sarah is harassed in a bookstore by a woman who looks like a member of the 80s Japanese metal band EZO. What is this all about? I've been harassed in bookstores, but it's usually by uppity employees who think that they're too good to work in the kid's section. Argento films aren't necessarily supposed to make sense, but this stuff is just stupid.

While the movie is bad, all blame can't be laid on Argento. The script was co-written by Americans Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch, who have previously worked on some bad Tobe Hooper films. There have been rumblings of a third film in this series for years, and I can only assume that a script needed to be in place to secure financing from certain parties. Argento's great films never had truly cohesive stories, and I'd be willing to bet that the money-men wouldn't front the money until they saw a story which had a beginning, middle, and end. That's sound financial planning, but the result is a story which doesn't resemble Suspiria or Inferno. Those movies were about normal people in a seemingly normal place who suddenly found themselves confronted by evil. Mother of Tears plays more like a Satanic-apocalyptic thriller in the vein of The Final Conflict, End of Days, or Bless the Child. The fact that violence and depravity begins to spread throughout Rome and that Sarah must travel the country for help is interesting, but it makes the focus too broad. In the final reel, the movie suddenly attempts to be a spiritual successor to the earlier films, with booming music and some shots similar to Suspiria. But, it's too little too late.

Probably the saddest part of Mother of Tears (beside the monkey) is the fact that this doesn't look like an Argento film...at least not his classic work. If you were to show this film to a group of horror fans without showing the credits, and if you hid the fact that Asia Argento and Daria Nicolodi were in the film, I would be willing to bet that they would not be able to identify it as an Argento film. Gone are the brilliant and gutsy camera moves and unnatural colors which made movies like Suspiria and Tenebrae great. Even the violence here isn't very stylized and feels incredibly out of place. However, I must give credit where credit is due. There is one jump scare here which I didn't see coming which is highly effective.

As with many Gen X horror fans, I discovered the work of Dario Argento on home video in the mid-80s and I was instantly hooked. And again, his early films are unsurpassed in their mixture of beauty and violence. But, he's clearly lost his way (I think that it happened when he and Nicolodi stopped collaborating) and Mother of Tears is just another example of a career which will never be the same again. And the monkey isn't helping.

Mother of Tears goes ape on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is quite sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. As with many European films, both old and new, the image is a bit dark. The colors look good, most notably reds and blues. The image has a nice amount of detail and I only spotted a trace of video noise. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a stellar track, and even at low volumes the power of the surround effects are noticeable. The music booms through the rear speakers, and really adds ambience to the movie. The stereo effects are good and we get some nice subwoofer action during the scare sequences.

The Mother of Tears DVD contains brief list of extras. We begin with "A Conversation with Legendary Filmmaker Dario Argento" (8 minute). Here Argento discusses the desire to complete the trilogy, what it's like to work with his daughter, and the way in which he exorcises his own demons through his movies. "The Making of Mother of Tears" (33 minutes) is a featurette which is in Italian with English subtitles. It mixes on-set footage showing Argento at work with interviews with cast members. We also footage from a screening of the film. The piece also shows us how some of the specials effects were done. The only comments from Argento come during a panel discussion. This is more of a broad overview of the movie than a specific document on how or why the movie was made. We do get to see that, as usual, it's Argento doing the killing. The DVD contains the U.S. TRAILER for the film, as well as the ITALIAN TEASER.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long