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Mother of Tears: The Third Mother

It has taken Dario Argento nearly three decades to complete his "Three Mothers" horror trilogy commenced by 1977's "Suspiria" -- his first, best and most widely popular post-giallo effort -- and 1980's visually striking if muddled "Inferno."

With:
With: Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeo, Adam James, Moran Atias, Valeria Cavalli, Philippe Leroy, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, Udo Kier. (English dialogue)

It has taken Dario Argento nearly three decades to complete his “Three Mothers” horror trilogy commenced by 1977’s “Suspiria” — his first, best and most widely popular post-giallo effort — and 1980’s visually striking if muddled “Inferno.” Whether viewers will think “Mother of Tears: The Third Mother” was worth the wait depends on if they are willing to settle for laughs over chills: This hectic pileup of supernatural nonsense is a treasure trove of seemingly unintentional hilarity. Although lacking helmer’s usual aesthetic panache, this “Mother” is a cheesy, breathless future camp classic. Theatrical sales look spotty; majority aud awaits via DVD.

A priest is puzzled by a 19th century coffin and medieval urn found secretly buried behind a church in un-consecrated ground. He sends the urn to a museum in Rome where archeology/art restoration intern Sarah (Asia Argento) and a colleague (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) unseal the odd, symbol-covered box, discovering a dagger and three pagan-talisman statuettes.

While Sarah looks for a reference book, demons materialize and tear her friend apart. Spying the bloody aftermath, Sarah flees, pursued by a vexing little monkey.

Police are baffled by the crime and Sarah’s describing “three deformed people and a monkey” as the killers. Meanwhile, Rome experiences an explosion of suicides, murders and senseless violence. (One daft detail here is that despite such highly publicized violence, background citizens go about their daily business as usual.)

During patches of clumsy explication between myriad hyperventilating action scenes, experts tell Sarah the opened urn released Mater Lacrimarum aka “mother of tears,” last survivor of three ancient witches.

Once that lady’s on the loose (though thesp Moran Atias doesn’t get much screentime), umpteen witchy women plane, train, and drive to Rome to herald the coming “second age of witches.” They cackle and stalk Sarah, looking like couture models at a club’s Goth dress-up night.

Turns out orphaned Sarah is the daughter of a powerful white witch who died vanishing “Inferno’s” Mother #2. Now good mom (Daria Nicolodi) guides Sarah from the spirit world, urging her to develop her own nascent occult powers and combat the biggest Mother of them all.

After much bloodshed and hocus-pocus, the witch proves ludicrously easy to vanquish — pretty much on the level of Dorothy Gale dumping a bucket of plain old water to “melt” her own witchy nemesis.

Never much inclined toward plot credibility, clarity, playable dialogue, or rescuing his actors from hapless “cry for help” perfs, Argento really throws in the towel here. Result is so hard to take seriously that even the graphic gore incites laughs, since it only caps situations already absurd in conceit and execution. Pic has exactly one good shock; otherwise it’s just amusingly foolish.

Adding to the fun are the “Omen”-esque satanic choral bombast of Claudio Simonetti’s score, some low-grade CGI effects, and many gratuitous breast shots.

It’s fortunate thesp Asia Argento has proven her ability in films for other directors, because if she only appeared in her dad’s films, she’d be considered one of the worst actresses ever to land starring roles through nepotism. (Probably the last good lead perf in an Argento film was Jessica Harper’s in “Suspiria.”) To be fair, everyone here is made to look ridiculous by the tin-ear English dialogue and irrational character behaviors.

Prod package is lively and colorful, though the hallucinatory, saturated-color gorgeousness that marked Argento’s best work (notably the two prior “Mothers”) is not to be found.

Mother of Tears: The Third Mother

Italy - U.S.

Production: A Medusa Film production in association with Myriad Pictures. Produced by Dario Argento, Claudio Argento. Executive producers, Claudio Argento, Kirk D'Amico, Giulia Marletta. Directed by Dario Argento. Screenplay, Argento, Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch, from a story by Argento.

Crew: Camera (color), Frederic Fasano; editor, Walter Fasano; music, Claudio Simonetti; production designers, Francesca Bocca, Valentina Ferroni; costume designer, Ludovica Amati; makeup, Paola Gattabrusi; special makeup f/x, Sergio Stivaletti; sound (Dolby Digital), Roberto Umberto Montesanti, Roberto Cappannelli; visual f/x, Lee Wilson, Lisa-Sepp Wilson, Anthem Visual Effects; assistant director, Leopoldo Pescatore; casting, Helena Palmer. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 7, 2007. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: With: Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeo, Adam James, Moran Atias, Valeria Cavalli, Philippe Leroy, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, Udo Kier. (English dialogue)

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