Friday, January 4, 2008

tears are not enough.

Finally it's here! because you demanded it! the full review of the (uncut) Italian Language version of La Terza Madre!!

(Warning! I would say it contains spoilers, but it's more like a blow by blow account of the if you don't want to know what happens, look away till you get to the Mekon man).

La Terza Madre
(AKA The Third Mother 2007)

Dir: Dario Argento.

Cast: Asia Argento, Daria Nicolodi, Moran Atias, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Philippe Leroy, Adam James, Valeria Cavalli, Clive Riche, Massimo Sarchielli, Silvia Rubino, Jun Ichikawa and Udo Kier.


What you see does not exist. What you cannot see is truth.

Whilst digging up a Vieterbo cemetery somewhere in Rome, Bob the (Italian) builder (with the help of Lofty) accidentally crashes thru an open grave, landing atop a 19th century urn strapped to a coffin.


The local priest appears to recognise the name etched into the ancient wood and decides to box it off to Michael (James), curator of the Museum of Ancient Art in Rome, but not before reburying the body on the far side of the church....

Museum intern Giselle (Cataldi-Tassoni) receives the spooky casket thru the mail and rather than wait for Michael to arrive, persuades her uber-sexy librarian-like art restorer colleague Sarah (Argento) that they should open it themselves for a wee nosy.

Asia: Silky blouse and a pearl necklace
(which I didn't give her before you ask).

Cutting her finger over the urn (never a good idea) whilst opening it Giselle intently examines the contents; a huge dagger, three evil Moonmins statues and a hand knitted crop top with glittery letters embroidered onto it.


Intrigued by the ancient text, Sarah hurries away to fetch some handy 'how to translate old t-shirts' books whilst her pal squints at the statuettes whilst hmming and ahhing a lot and nibbling a pen top.

"It'd look great with a pair of mules and a drindle skirt".

Within minutes of the box being opened tho', the room is suddenly crammed full of shadowy, bald demons with knives and annoyed expressions plus quite possibly the shit-scariest movie monkey this side of Phenomena.

Before Giselle can scream for help tho' she has her tongue messily removed with what looks like a giant wooden corkscrew, her chest slit from throat to groin and finally she's strangled with her own intestine.

God knows what they'd have done if she'd dared tried the top on.

"Here come the Belgians!"

Returning with the books Sarah notices the blood, demons, intestines over the walls (not forgetting the creepy monkey) and, quite understandably legs it down a corridor to the main entrance with the wee hairy fella in hot pursuit but, when finding the exit locked a mysterious wind blows the doors open as a disembodied voice shouts "run!"

Rome's finest arrive on the scene and instantly think Sarah is a mentalist with her tale of scary demons, ghostly voices and spooky monkeys, so she heads home with hunky Michael to discuss all things supernatural over a mug of hot chocolate whilst his Giovanni Frezza like son sits cheekily on his bed.

Some mothers do 'ave 'em.

Whilst Sarah sleeps an ill wind is blowing thru the streets of Rome, mindless violence and murderous robberies begin to take hold of the city and groups of mid 80's goth girls start arriving in droves and abusing old men at train stations as young mothers begin casually tossing their babies off bridges (and yes they do bounce).

The police, deducing that Sarah is behind all this (no idea why) decide to follow her. Michael on the other hand has different idea's. He's going to go visit the old priest who discovered the urn for some answers (that will be revealed in fantastically illustrated black and white flashbacks as a pounding Simonetti score plays in the background). It appears that the urn carried the magic tunic of Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears and the most beautiful and wicked of The Three Mothers; three sisters skilled in the dark art of witchcraft who wandered the world amassing great personal wealth and power but leaving only death and destruction in their wake.

While you're waiting for the movie to continue
here are some nice storyboards for
the scenes we couldn't afford to shoot.

It appears that the chaos and bloodshed on the streets is only the beginning and Mater Lachrymarum is lying in wait, regaining her strength for the coming second fall of Rome.

On his way home Michael is perturbed when he notices the two (fairly) sexy (in a Birmingham Powerhouse 1987 way) goth chicks (including the really scary, black toothed Jun Ichikawa) staring at him from a bridge whilst licking their lips.


Ichikawa: scary as fuck.

Returning home Michael is surprised (and a wee bit upset-tho not too much) to find the witches have kidnapped his son, leaving a load of archaic symbols and the word SILENTIUM scrawled in blood on his headboard.....his son will die if he continues to search for answers.

Michael has only one option left to him...he must travel to meet one of the Vatican's last remaining (and not to say the sexiest) Exorcism cum demon specialists at his country house on the outskirts of Rome. Sarah offers to go to the library to look up more information (and to fill in those few cinema goers who've accidentally turned up to see the movie -or rented it on DVD-not realising it's a sequel to Suspiria and Inferno) regarding The Three Mothers.

But Michael doesn't make it far before he's accosted by a couple of goth girls in a phone box (which some folk would pay good money for)...the only thing he can do is call Sarah for help.

Rushing from the library to the train station, Sarah is shocked to find that not only are the police tailing her but so is the scary Japanese goth and her pals (including a punked up midget!-this keeps getting better and better).

During a high octane bookshop based chase scene however, the mysterious voice in Sarah's head explains that if she concentrates really, really hard she will become invisible to her pursuers.

"You aint seen me, right?"

Remarkably this does the trick and Sarah manages to board a train undetected by the police but not, alas by the scary Japanese lady who having sneaked aboard has already killed a copper and is currently searching the train toilets for our heroine.

Sarah has the last laugh tho' for as Jun goes to strike, our arse kicking art restoring honey slams the witches head repeatedly in the toilet door till her eyes pop out before hopping on another train bound for exorcismville and a date with the kindly Padre Joannes.

Arriving at his country abode, the first thing Sarah notices is the large group of mentalists, gypsies, topless ladies and Tourettes sufferers camped out in his courtyard. Everyone is either possessed or gone mad the rather butch housekeeper explains, which is why Joannes is way too busy to see her.

Sarah pushes her way into the house only to be confronted by the exotic (and low cut cleavage sporting) Marta (Cavalli), a friendly Sapphic (you can tell) medium who appears to know much more about Sarah's mysterious voices-and the circumstances surrounding her mothers death than even Sarah herself does.

Valeria Cavalli (totally unnecessary
lesbian sex scene still to come).

Sarah is understandably taken aback by claims that her mother, Elisa (Argento's ex, Asia's mum and owner of the world's sexiest smoker voice Daria Nicolodi, playing a character that's not to be confused with the similarly named Elise Stallone Van Adler that she portrayed in Inferno, no matter what certain fansites suggest) did not die in a car accident but was in fact a white witch who, whilst studying ballet at the Tanz Akademie in Freiburg lost her life to Mater Suspiriorum.... and it's her mothers voice she's been hearing and who has been guiding her actions.

Still keeping up at the back? Good stuff.

Limping, spluttering and wearing a HUGE crucifix and carrying a glass of water for his 'medicine' the grey haired and oh so slightly camp Padre Joannes enters the room.

He has been expecting Sarah and has information that will be vital if she is to defeat Mater Lachrymarum.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls (but mainly boys)'s Udo time!

You would, I would and he most definitely would. Twice
(well in my dreams anyway).

Joannes has been run off his feet with the amounts of exorcisms he's having to perform at the moment (hence the freaks camped out in his garden) and explains that it's all down to the Mothers dark influence.....things are going to get much worse too as more and more witches arrive in Rome to prepare for her rising.

Luckily the Padre has a book that explains exactly how to kill Lachrymarum so he totters off to his study to fetch it.

Joannes finds that the book has gone and shouts on his housemaid for help locating it, unfortunately (for him, her and her wee boy) she's way too busy chopping up her son with a meat cleaver to offer a hand and decides instead to cut the padres throat before slashing his ankles, slamming the cleaver into his back and, just to make sure he's dead using it to turn his face into a meaty soup (all in glorious technicolour close up) before cutting her own throat to the cry of "For my Mother!"

With Udo down (noooooooooooooo!) Sarah and Marta have no alternative but to start panicking and leg it to the car, narrowly avoiding the pervy pikeys before driving back to the city.

It has to be said tho, that Marta is surprisingly calm as she explains more about Sarah's powers and her mothers legacy during the drive back even offering to let her sleep over to hone her powers.

Sarah however thinks it'd be safer to head home in case Michael rings (yep, I'd forgotten about him too) so Marta drops her off in the middle of a riot and bids her goodnight.

"There's somebody at the door!"

Sarah soon has a change of heart however when she attempts to unlock her front door only to hear what sounds like a cheeky monkey rifling thru her pant drawer so decides to take up Marta's offer.

A totally unnecessary lesbian sex scene yesterday.

Arriving at Marta's pad (much to the disdain of her 'flatmate' Helga-a really grumpy Rubino) there's just time for a quick coffee, a few lessons in seeing the dead and a chat with mum (not forgetting some all important plot exposition) before bed. Elisa warns her daughter that she can't fight Mater Lachrymarum alone and must secure the help of friendly warlock Guglielmo De Witt if she is to have any chance of winning.

Snuggled up on the sofa with nothing to do but listen to the totally gratuitous (and completely unnecessary) sex scene in the next room, Sarah is awoken by dreams of demons, chimps and monkey noises.....but wait....the monkey noises are coming from the hallway!

Sarah does what we'd all do in these circumstances and sneaks out the flat only stopping to phone Marta to warn her of the killer monkey in her house.

But it's too little too late seeing as when she climbs out of bed to answer the phone she's karate chopped in the throat whilst poor Helga is finally given something to look grumpy about when she gets stabbed in the chest by a baldy man with bad skin.

"Knife to see you, to see you knife!"

In a rare moment of calm from this tsunami of bloodshed, Mr. Bald Pate stops to howl menacingly down the phone at Sarah causing her to trash the receiver and run off into the night.

Lying prostrate on the floor of her bedroom, Marta can only gaze on in horror as Mater Lachrymarum (looking like a Jedi stripper seeing as she's clad only in a cape and hood) accompanied by a chained blonde bimbette dressed in an Anne Summers toga, slinks into the room.

"Put it in me!"

Lachrymarum crouches down next to Marta, wiggling her ample arse like a big, pink, caped cat and starts licking her cheek in a vaguely erotic manner before ordering baldy to stab the unconscious Helga in the eyes with a sharp pointy thing and if this wasn't enough to put you off your popcorn he then takes a snap together spear out of his briefcase and violently inserts it into Marta's nether regions, pushing till it pops out of her mouth.

Which, even I will admit is maybe a wee bit excessive.

Wandering the blood drenched, violent streets in a horrified daze, Sarah is shocked to see Michael hurry past her, she gives chase and manages to catch up with him in a deserted alley.

Looking like shit and smelling of cheap gin and piss, he calmly explains how the witches have murdered his son and how he is on the run from the evil ladies but it should be ok for him and Sarah to head back to his for coffee.

Sarah thinks there's nothing at all suspicious about this suggestion and happily accompanies him back to his flat. It's only after she's put the kettle on that Sarah realises that Michael is actually a re-animated, slit-throated, foul mouthed tool of Mater Lachrymarum.

Deciding that their relationship is probably over she does what most girls would do.

That's right, she sets fire to her undead ex and runs off to bitch about it to her mum who, using the last of her magical powers drags the human torch-alike off to limbo in a scene very reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz (which to my mind is a good thing really).

"Curses Dan Dare!"

Lost and alone as everything she knows and loves is dragged into hell and with the police broadcasting nationwide APB's claiming that she is behind everything, Sarah's only hope lies with the mysterious Guglielmo De Witt.

But will he have the information she needs to find and defeat the third mother?

Or will Mater Lachrymarum create a living hell on earth?

Since Dario Argento announced his plans to complete 'The Three Mothers' trilogy way back in 2004 the internet has been rife with rumours and gossip concerning the new film even before a script was completed or a frame of film shot (well, it was on the kinda sites I read). Fans were worried with discussions ranging from "Will it live up to the highs of Suspiria and Inferno?" to the blunt "Dario lost it half way thru''ll be crap".

As a huge (nay, obsessive) fan of the 'master of horror' since my early teens it pains me to admit that since the release of his undisputed classic giallo Tenebrae (way back in 1982), the great man's career has had more twists and turns than a really big twisty turny roller-coaster, taking him from being hailed as 'the new Hitchcock' (something he's had to live up to since his directorial debut The Bird With A Crystal Plumage) and heir apparent to Mario Bava's crown as Italy's 'Maestro of the Macabre' to being seen as a spent talent, churning out cheaply xeroxed copies of his hits desperately trying to regain his former glory.

I'll admit that since Tenebrae's release Argento has gone from the dizzying excesses of the truly fantastic Opera (AKA Terror At The Opera) thru the maddeningly out of control car crash of a movie that is Phenomena and the almost Argento-lite of his first American shot feature Trauma, taking in the dazzling return to form, Non Ho Sonno and the great in parts The Card Player.

But thru' thick and thick myself (and many more like minded souls) have stuck by the great man, knowing full well that a bad Argento movie is usually 100 times more entertaining that most 'mainstream' movies being released today (except the cinematic abortion that was-and still is- his version of The Phantom Of The Opera of course). does La Terza Madre fair in the 21st century world of 'torture porn' and slick Hollywood no-brain horror? but most importantly is it a worthy climax to the story of The Three Mothers?

To answer the last

"Does my bum look big in this?"

From the opening titles featuring illustrations and artwork charting the history of witchcraft matched to a frankly pant-wettingly good Claudio Simonetti score that subliminally echoes the music of Suspiria without aping it you know you're in classic Argento territory. A sense of foreboding and cold menace hang over the opening scenes like a cruel blanket of fog on a deserted moor. It almost feels as if Mater Lachrymarum's plan is already in action and that the characters are merely pawns in a greater game being dragged along to their respective fates.

The complexities of the Mother's back story inform the whole proceedings but not to the detriment of viewers who aren't familiar with the earlier chapters, thanks to a solid screenplay written by Dario alongside Jase Anderson and Adam Gierasch (scarily the duo behind the abysmal Toolbox Murders remake....who knew they could actually write?) that
ticks all the right boxes needed to produce a great final act to an epic story.

"Shite in mah mooth!"

Fans of the previous installments are rewarded with nods to characters and situations from both Suspiria and Inferno, satisfyingly linking it to the previous films and even the high level of exposition dialogue (never one of Argento's strong points) may sometimes border on the camply absurd side but is played with a knowing conviction that never veers into unintentional laughs because this is a one of a kind director at the top of his game making a film about a subject he loves.

The almost perversely graphic murder scenes are pure Argento and match anything the director has imagined before, both brutal and vile yet at the same time stunning to watch. Add to this a director who brings a new subtlety to his palette; the earlier scenes shot in harsh greys with natural lighting leaving his trademark brilliant reds and blues to come to the fore when the Mother's power and influence begin to grow, building towards a nightmarish climax awash with deep crimson shafts of light and black shadows slashing thru' the film like an open razor.

So, at this point I have to ask.....what the fuck went wrong with the movies climax?

"Laugh now!"

I mean after the years of waiting, the bad press reports and less than favourable reviews I'd settled down expecting a midly entertaining so-so Argento movie.

Nothing more, nothing less.

But it was better, much better than it had any right to be, almost (gulp) on a par with 'end of days' horror for the new millennium. It builds and builds moving relentlessly towards it's aforementioned fiery climax and then.....

"Aye and indeed, Hen!"

It's as if the co-writers hastily put an ending on paper (perhaps it was their final piece and the shop was shut) expecting Dario to flesh it out but then he assumed the same. It's classic 7 year old schoolboy creative writing, you remember, you'd write these huge rambling stories that took up about 8 sides in your exercise book then realise The Two Ronnies or something was on in 5 minutes so you'd hastily scribble down:

'and so the hero killed the bad guy. The End'

and rush off to do whatever it was that was more important.

This also goes for the effects department who, after 90 minutes of fantastic work appear to shoddily pin up a painting of a street (completed by the AD's 3 year old blind, wooden handed child) for the final scenes that doesn't just leave you wondering if you've accidently skipped a chapter and gone straight to the out-takes but also how anyone could have sat and agreed that this was a great way to end not just the film, but the whole trilogy.

"Don't shout at me! I never wrote the ending!"

Did Dario keep it a secret till the night of release? or is he surrounded by George Lucas style 'yes' men hanging on his every word?

I just don't know.

Part of me thinks that if the movie had, in fact been the lackluster mess that most reviewers had said then it wouldn't have mattered so much.

But it's not. It's possibly the best Argento movie since Opera and shows the director has lost none of his talent or passion for the cinema, just that he needs discipled co-writers to work with, not glorified fan boys who were obviously too in awe of their hero to say "No Dario, that endings shit...we need a better one".

I'd love to think I could end this review with something witty and amusing, rather than leave it looking like I hated the movie (which I didn't). It's just that this missed opportunity doesn't just reflect badly on what could have been a classic horror movie from the worlds greatest horror director but one the Three Mothers trilogy as a whole.

Dario, you've not just let us down, you've let yourself down too.

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