Mother Of Tears (Alliance, 2007) D: Dario Argento, w/ Asia Argento, Moran Atias. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNN
Without those extra writers (four credited besides Dario Argento), this might have been one of the Italian horror master's great movies. Instead, it's merely one of his very good ones.
The story is simple: an ancient witch, accidentally resurrected, is spreading madness, suicide and murder all over Rome, and only a museum assistant (Asia Argento) with newly discovered psychic powers can stop her.
Argento and then-wife Daria Nicolodi wrote both Suspiria and Inferno, the first two of the Three Mothers trilogy, themselves. They didn't bother with much exposition - a few quick lines - then Argento got on with what he does best: an atmosphere of delirium, excruciatingly violent set-pieces, stylish visuals and eerie atmosphere. The stories didn't make much sense, but Argento makes film as nightmare. Sense just gets in the way.
For the first hour, Mother Of Tears keeps stopping so people can fill in needless mythology and backstory. It kills the thrills.
Otherwise, the movie flies on a strong evocation of a city in the grip of evil, a string of gruesome deaths and a suspensful chase. The witches, classic fairy-tale monsters with rat's-nest hair and cackling laughter, are also young and beautiful, which makes them both ludicrous and scary.
Asia Argento has an earthiness that contrasts well with the airy magic and a strong talent for truculence and rage that make her more believable than average as a horror movie heroine.
Argento father and daughter have worked together before, most notably in highly recommended The Stendhal Syndrome. Their view of each other is the best part of the making-of doc that otherwise mixes scholarly and fan appreciation with glimpses of the production.
EXTRAS Making-of doc, Argento interview. Widescreen. English, French audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.