★ out of ★★★★★
All the old adages about aging are sadly true. While there are a handful of unique exceptions to aging, largely the process is mean, maddening, and without fail. The longer you stay in the game the harder it is to compete at your once prolific rate. That 12th album, might not quite be as fresh as that first lighting in a bottle 30 years prior. That 300th game might be a tad disinclined. It’s just a fact of our meager little life on planet earth and this impact is felt by all, including Dario Argento.
Depending on your count, 2007’s The Mother of Tears (AKA: La Terza Madre, AKA The Third Mother), was Dario’s 17th directorial effort. Over the course of nearly 40 years, Argento has managed to craft some of the the greatest horror films of all time. Most stand the test of time and most improve with each and every passing year. His first three films — The Cat O’ Nine Tales, the Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet — are simply BRILLIANT. The Hitchcockian shots, the Goblin scores, and otherworldly horrifying images will be permanently ensconced in our collective movie watching brains. Understandably that’s why it was so difficult to trundle through the clunkiest of all his efforts.
The Mother of Tears, coming 27 years after its companion Inferno, and 30 years after the original piece of the trilogy, Suspiria, follows the discovery of a pile of Mother Lachrymarum’s junk. For those of you unfamiliar with the satanic black witch cabal…Mother Lachrymarum is part of a pre-Christian witch history featuring Mother Tenebrarum, Mother Lachrymarum, and most famously Mother Suspiriorum.
Based on the work by Thomas De Quincey, Suspiria de profundis, roughy translated “sighs from the depths”, lays out the diabolical plans for the three witchy mothers to take over the WORLD! Mother Lachrymarum (played by Moran Atias), the Mother of Tears, is the most beautiful of the coven, and she’s somehow (?) resurrected in the last of this trilogy. There’s a clumsy box reveal where the lead character, Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento), cuts herself with a black mass witch dagger, and her blood (?) brings all the world’s witches crawling back to Mother Lachrymarum’s home in Rome.
Mother of Tears vacillates between a series of mundane “world gone mad” vignettes, poorly acted scenes with Asia Argento where she learns that she’s the descendent of an all powerful white witch. Creating an unbelievable boring tension between black witch and white witch, Mother of Tears slowly traipses from scene to scene where Sarah contends with fallen priests (unnoticeably played by Udo Kier), Omen-like rip-offs, and goofy, bawdy, and bosom-y witches. Think the hyper-silly 1980s cartoon rock band Jem, but in witch form. Not scary. Not threatening. Definitely not in keeping with Suspiria and Inferno.
Sarah eventually has a Hollywood action showdown with Mother Lachrymarum, but by the time they get around to any dramatic witch tension, the film exhausts all interest and intrigue. While there’s a couple solid scenes of gore, they’re unfortunately punctuated with poorly constructed CGI and laughable witch cackles. Asia Argento almost appears to be disinterested in points throughout the film, her love interest is barely connected, and Mother Lachrymarum offers no scares and is unable to conjure up an end-of-the-world kind of atmosphere.
Mother of Tears is really a sad affair on so many levels. A great piece of mythology unexplored. A fascinating architecture story left at the door. The third piece of a legendary trilogy. It should go with out saying that the Mother of Tears — Mother Lachrymarum — did need to be made. It’s an essential and almost required bookend to two truly great films. Unfortunately, Dario Argento was not the man to finish this storied tale — or maybe he was, just 30 years ago.
Mother of Tears is Rated R and available for streaming on Apple TV.