Dir: Dario Argento
Star: Asia Argento, Daria Nicolodi, Moran Atias, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni
Ah, Dario: how we missed you. Well, not really. But it’s nice to see that he hasn’t changed: a wretched script, only somewhat enlivened by impressive cinematography and the odd spot of spectacular violence. The fun starts when a box is unearthed from just outside a rural cemetery. Sent to Rome for analysis, it leads to murder of one of the women who opens it, and chaos ensues as witches and occultists from all over the world, descend on the city, in preparation for the return of Mater Lachrymarum the Mother of Tears, their vanquished queen (Atias). The victim’s colleague, Sarah Hardy (Argento), turns out to be at the center of things, as her own mother (Nicilodi, Asia’s actual mother) was one of those who helped weaken the powers of the evil witch, before Susie finished her off in Suspiria.
Sarah has inherited her mother’s psychic talents, and it’s up to her to stop Mater Lachrymarum before the entire world falls under her malevolent spell. Or, as pointed out by another reviewer, “Dario has basically nicked the plot of Harry Potter and thrown in some tits and gore.” Except Harry actually has skills. Do you know what Sarah’s climactic use of her “talents” is? She possesses the amazing ability to poke clothes of a witch with a spear. Really. If not quite the most ludicrous moment in Argento’s filmography – there’s some stuff in Opera that probably is worse – it certainly ranks up there.
It doesn’t help that the acting is no great shakes: Asia comes across, according to Chris, as a cross between Nastassja Kinski and Christopher Lambert. [And not five minutes after writing that, in the Wikipedia entry on her, I found this quote: “I can’t help thinking there was a mix-up at the hospital and her dad was Klaus Kinski.”] In the right role, that might work. This squealing, flailing, trembling flower isn’t it, but Sarah and Lachrymarum nicely reflect Daddy’s strongly-divergent view of women into two groups, victims and perpetrators – both of whom are likely to die messily. Compared to Suspiria, this feels disappointingly like a third-rate knock-off from one of the lesser Italian directors.