Dario Argento’s Inferno is one of those movies I’ve seen bits and pieces of all my life, but never really sat down and watched. A mortal sin for someone that loves Suspiria as much as I do. Anyone who’s spoken with me for more than five minutes knows about my passion for Italian horror movies, so there’s no better way to start the season off than with Inferno!
Before I go any further, I have to talk about how much I love the way this movie opens. We see a woman researching and translating a book called “The Three Mothers.” A lengthy book written by the bitter architect that built their homes. The book’s words are spoken aloud by the author, and he keeps getting louder and angrier about his situation until he’s cut off by the film’s blaring soundtrack and title card. Unfortunately nothing in the actual movie lives up to this except for a certain reveal at the very end.
Inferno is goofy and fun but it crosses a line to me from “dreamlike” to “incoherent.” We learn about how the witch in Suspiria was the Mother of Sighs, one of the “Three Mothers” who are evil manipulative women that are very powerful. There are some fun kill scenes in this movie, but also a weird incoherence to the lighting, like this feels like it was made by someone who loved the look of Suspiria on a superficial level, but it was directed by Argento himself so I don’t know.
Argento’s lighting and sets throughout feel like novice’s imitation of Suspiria rather than a sequel from the same director. It’s hard to believe this guys gave us movies as confidently textured as Suspiria and Deep Red.
It also does this thing where multiple main characters are killed off in rapid succession and the film feels glacial for a while as we basically spend a lot of time with a bunch of new characters that we can already tell don’t matter. There’s some awesome twists and revelations towards the end (and an incredible money shot as the true villain is revealed) but there’s so little going on that it’s hard to recommend when you could just watch Suspiria instead.
The plot is propelled forward by every character having a moment where they’re suddenly incapable of navigating a doorway.
One thing that’s really interesting about this though is that you can see a kind of sort of germination of what would become Phenomena with its slow burn researching in the first act and regular use of animals as messengers of death.
Argento eventually did a third movie to deal with third of the Three Mothers though, Mother of Tears (2007). It is absolutely horrible though so don’t bother.
At the end of Suspiria the witch’s illusions don’t quite work and she gets stabbed, her death throes basically cause the entire place to ignite and be consumed by flame. In this movie though, the Mother of Darkness reveals that the Three Mothers are actually all aspects of death itself; A limp, compressed version of Suspiria’s “living dead” ending fake out. She busts through a mirror and becomes a tall grim reaper figure, it would make an incredible gif and the build up to it is awesome too. But like, she reveals that she is death (or it’s an illusion, whatever), and, burns her own building down? And she’s just sort of standing in the front doorway looking triumphant as police and emergency personnel are rolling up. What was the endgame here?
Folks leery of animal cruelty might want to avoid it due to a scene involving a large number of cats just straight up being thrown at someone in rapid succession. At one point an actor picks up a cat by the scruff of their neck but is a horrible person and ends up holding them literally by the skin on their back and then by their head, like what the fuck man a child can pick up a cat by the scruff of their neck successfully.