Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Schlocktober Reviews: The Mother of Tears

Hey, hey, it’s October and that means it’s fright month. A lot of studios will put out horror movies around this time of year (or wait until January to if the movie’s particularly schlocky) and I decided that I might as well watch some horror movies I’ve wanted to see for a while now and review them. Being unemployed and bored have absolutely nothing to do with this decision. Of course not. So without further ado, I give you Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears.

First up I gotta say I’m a huge fan of Dario Argento. His work in the Gallo and horror genres in the 70s and 80s, with such movies as Suspiria, Inferno and Deep Red,  is absolutely incredible and I urge anybody reading this to check them out. His style is almost surreal, and while there’s tons of gore and violence in his movies, it’s approached and shot in a way that almost makes it into art. That said, Dario does have his flaws as a director and a storyteller and a director and his main flaw is the probably the converse of what makes him so great as a visual director; the stories and plots in his movies aren’t great. Well, in all fairness, they’re absolute, often unintelligible crap with plot holes the size of Jupiter and logic leaps that would make even David Lynch ask, “What the fuck?” But that’s okay because the visuals make up for it. And seriously, if you’re watching a horror movie for the plot, you’re obviously in the wrong genre.  Surprisingly though, it’s Argento’s attempt at a plot in this movie that ultimately sinks it, especially when there’s no significant trippy visuals to back it up. It’s a complete betrayal of style and substance I’d like to say it’s like going to the supermarket to pick up some apples and only coming back with oranges, but a more apt metaphor would be going to the store, getting punched in the dick while a dog shits on your shoe. The only way to properly explain my frustration for this movie is to go over it piece by piece so you too can experience the suck.

The movie begins with a soundtrack that sounds like a bad rip-off of the Omen while a montage of images and pictures of the devil and various occult symbols that looks like it’s been scanned and pasted straight from the Satanic Bible. As the credits roll, the whole thing is presented so straight that it’d make Anton fucking LeVay blush, and that man’s been dead for nearly fifteen years now. Post opening credits we see a repair crew working on a cemetery. They must’ve been union workers though, since they accidentally open up a sealed crypt. A bishop is called in, who announces that the crypt was sealed in 1518, and sends off some urns and relics found in the crypt to be examined by a magic expert in Rome. I know Vatican II loosened things up in the Catholic Church, but I seriously still think the whole “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” thing might still mean the clergy’s not exactly friendly with Harry Potter wannabes.

At Rome, we’re introduced to the main character played by Asia Argento. Her name’s Sarah Mandy, though nobody actually says her name until the last twenty minutes of the movie so I’ll just call her Asia. Also Asia’s acting talent isn’t strong enough to lead me to believe she has any emotional range let alone can actually portray another character. You might recognize Asia from a few other movies such as playing the slutty love interest to Vin Diesel in XXX. Although if you don’t care to recall any details from that shitty movie I don’t blame you. She’s also Dario’s real life daughter and while that explains why she got the role, it also makes some scenes later on in the movie infinitely more creepy. And not in a good way.

Asia is working as an assistant at a museum where the magic expert also works. While he’s out the urn and relics arrive and because this is a horror movie that means all sense of archeological professional is flown right the fuck out the window. She and her friend decide to examine and dick around with these artifacts because the plot says so. While they’re doing that some S&M rejects from a Hellraiser flick appear from out of nowhere followed by a cackling monkey. Yes, I do realize that the previous sentence sounds like I’m on drugs but I swear to Christ this actually happens in the movie. While Asia goes off due to plot convenience the cenobite wannabes descend on Asia’s friend and proceed to tear her apart. The gore effects here are cheap and they would’ve looked bad thirty years ago. Did they get the F/X guys from Weasals Rip My Flesh to do this shit?

Anyways, Asia’s chased by the monkey and narrowly escapes it while a mysterious woman telepathically tells her to run away and get out of there. Thanks OBGYN Kenobi, I wouldn’t have figured that out. Though to be fair my response would’ve been to just punt the fucking monkey; seriously it’s barely two feet tall. But whatever. When the cops arrive to interview her about the murder they surprise! surprise! don’t believe her when she tells them what happens. We’re then introduced to Michael, the museum curator/lover interest/ obviously about to die before the climax guy.

They go back to his place and Asia says she has a hard time believing the stolen artifacts and what happened have anything to do with magic. I however have a hard time believing that the movie just cock-slapped me in the face like that. Seriously? After witnessing three freaks in bondage gear kill and mutilate your best friend in front of you for no reason as a monkey chases you around and all the while a woman with Jedi mind powers speaks inside your head  you STILL have the gall to be skeptical?  I’d rather believe in a world where magic exists then think there’s a group of people out there so detached from reality that they wear gimp masks and have a monkey fetish for no good fucking reason. Then again somebody actually wrote this piece of garbage (six people in total if you can believe it) so maybe my belief in a rational existence is ill-founded. Afterwards she and Michael fuck. Nothing more to say about that.

Oh and we’re not even twenty minutes into this piece of crap, cause apparently there’s just too much important plot points we need to witness so the movie has to rush through everything. Yippee.

Then there’s a montage of crazy shit going on in Rome while the same clichéd chanting that played in the credits plays here. There’s crowds of people going crazy and attacking each other, a man stabs himself in front of the Vatican but the cream of the crap is a woman throwing her baby off a bridge and into the river. While this may sound horrible the baby prop they use is so fake looking that you’d think they used a Cabbage Patch Doll for it. Michael goes off to see the occult expert Signor Brusca who reveals in series of black and white images the story of the Mater Lachrymarum, which is a pretty decent story of lust, black magic and betrayal. I’m left wondering why the fuck they didn’t make this the focus of the movie instead of this anemic modern day crap. Brusca also reveals that among the artifacts the gimps stole was a tunic that’s said to increase the Mother of Tears’ powers tenfold.  Don’t worry about that plot point though cause if you do remember it it just makes the climax of the movie that much more painful. As he’s leaving Michael is glared at by some skanky Italian goth chicks. Speaking of skanky Italian chicks Asia herself has been doing some digging into this whole mess by looking through old books on the occult because apparently now she believes in it despite no indication that she’s changed her mind. God I love consistency.

There’s  another montage of pointless violence and it’s revealed that Michael’s son has been kidnapped. Michael and Asia then proceed to both overact and underact respectively, though not respectfully cause if this movie obviously won’t bother to respect itself I’m sure as fuck not going to. It’s at this point that I’m starting to get the Mother of Tears angle on this, because this movie is so fucking bad I’m about to cry. Also I’m shortening Mother of Tears to MoT, both because the full name is too long to type and Mater Lachrymarum is too dignified a title for a character that does basically nothing when she’s on screen.

Anyways, a gaggle of witches fly into Rome via Italian airlines because fuck broomsticks. They then show how evil they are by being rude to their fellow passengers and tipping over their luggage. Remember how this movie is supposed to be scary? I’m not sure the filmmakers did.

Asia does some more research and she keeps running into the fact that witches traditionally run in threes. While she was looking into it she should’ve looked at how the third movie in a trilogy always sucks the most balls. I seriously owe Sophia Coppola an apology for criticizing her acting in Godfather Part 3 cause after witnessing Asia’s poor attempt at the craft I have to say Sophie’s starting to look like Oscar contender material by comparison.

Asia gets a call from Michael who’s been captured by the coven and she’s chased around by a group of Japanese goth kids/witches before she can reach him. Again these witches aren’t scary and I’ve frankly seen creepier Japanese goths chicks in real life. Asia gets trapped in a bookstore where she’s again urged on by her mysterious ghostly mentor to use the Forc- I mean, concentrate and use her magical abilities to turn herself invisible. Because logic is seriously fucking lacking in this movie it actually works, and she escapes to a train station though she’s somehow still pursued by one crazy goth chick. Like the rest of the witches this one shows fuck all powers other than to make a frowny face like she has terminal constipation, but that’s apparently enough to scare Asia and the train authorities. Personally all of these threats so far could easily be solved by the good ol’ tactic of boot to the face, but hey I didn’t write this schlock. Asia gets trapped in a bathroom stall, and the Japanese goth chick can detect her now. Asia then bashes loligoth’s face in with the stall door, which is a fate far too glorious for a character that wasn’t scary and didn’t add anything to this piece of crap movie other than to waste five minutes of our time. Oh yeah and Michael and his son are dead now because fuck you audience!

She finds out she needs to go to a convent to talk to the exorcist, Father Johanes, that Michael was trying to see and she learns that her mother was a white witch who apparently faced down and weakened MoT’s sister witch Mater Suspiriorum. It’s a this point where I’m really starting to get pissed. First of all, Mater Suspiriorum was the witch in Suspiria and we never saw any of this backstory nor any indication that it’d taken place in that movie. Second of all, it’s a well known fact that you don’t reference a good movie in you own shitty movie.  It just makes people compare the two and wish they were watching the better movie. “Fortunately” though the script writers follow another rule to a T and pull directly from Cliched Contrivance 101 the fact that Asia’s parents were killed by MoT. Oh yes, and two guesses as to who the secret voice inside her head is.

She finds out that all of the witches are coming to Rome to attend the ascension of MoT and usher in the fall of Rome. I’d rant about the stupidity of that plot point but I’m already going to be covering it in another post. Father Johanes, played by Udo Kier in a classic doing-this-for-the-money role, decides to go to his study because the plot says so and is promptly stabbed by a nun who’s gone all crazy and knife wieldy. She drags the still living Johannes in front of Asia and her new lesbian psychic friend Marta and does to Johannes face with her knife what I’d like to do to every single DVD copy of this movie. Oh yes and I just gave you about the same introduction to Marta as the movie gives. Don’t you feel special now?

Asia and Marta escape back to Rome and they end up at Marta’s place. Marta tells her that the psychic voice she’s been hearing in her head is actually, wait for it, her dead mother. Dun-dun-dun! They do a séance or some shit and dead mom tells Asia to use her powers and I’m starting to think they could’ve cut some costs to the production by replacing dead mom’s actress with a broken record. Asia’s really no better as when she actually sees the spirit of her dead mother she starts calling out “Mommy! Mommy!”like a fucking two year old who’s spilt her milk.  Our protagonist ladies and gentlemen!

Marta then shows that she’s absolutely tits useless besides being an exposition provider for the retarded members of the audience, and she promptly fucks off to fuck her lesbian assistant. Apparently seeing a priest get knifed in the face and knowing that your whole city is being overrun by goths is a huge turn on for psychic Italian lesbians. Who knew? I’d suspect this lesbian love scene was just a crass move by the producers to push the rating up to an R rating (cause the fake looking gore sure as fuck isn’t doing any favors) but that would be just cynical.

Asia goes back to her apartment only for the power to go out. She goes up the stairs and we get a jump scare of a statue sticking out of the walls. I wouldn’t even comment on this except for the fact that just a few seconds later we see a regular shot of a genuinely creepy ghost melting out of the walls a la Silent Hill 4: The Room. Hey movie, do you know what would’ve been a good jump scare? Doing it with something that’s actually scary!

So she heads back to Marta’s place cause it’s safer or maybe she just wants to get in on some of that three way lesbian action but she’s chased out of the place by the monkey again. I forgot to mention that this monkey is supposed to be MoT’s familiar, but since the movie doesn’t even bother to mention that fact and I only learned that from  Wikipedia, I guess the filmmakers must be just as forgetful as I am. Asia runs out of Marta’s place but instead of doing something useful like screaming or doing something else to let them know MoT or her gimp posse are there, she decides to call them from a nearby pay phone which does absolutely fuck all. In one of the very few gruesomely freaky scenes in the movie the cultists poke out the assistant’s eyes, break Marta’s spine and proceed to shove a long metal spike pole up her hoo-haw all while MoT proceeds to lick away Marta’s tears.
 It’s a genuinely gory moment that harkens back to Argento’s earlier good work but it’s over too soon. In one of his older flicks, this scene would’ve been drawn out more to really hammer in the gore and the characters suffering.  And that’s what we’re watching a Dario Argento film to see; stylized gore that’s so over the top that it somehow becomes a visual tour de force. Say what you will about Argento’s previous forays being misogynistic, but at least they had a way about them that almost turned the slasher flick into an art form. In his best work, the sets were always weird and strange, the camera angles were hypnotizing and the gore effects as well as the deaths themselves were so good and so well shot that they could actually make you cringe in legitimate terror and disgust upon seeing them. Looking back, this scene just makes me realize how much of cheesy gore by numbers borefest this movie really is. Le Sigh.

Asia then meets up with Michael. But wait! Those of you that’ve actually been paying attention so far will note that Michael’s already dead. True, true. But that doesn’t mean we can’t play the surprise- he’s-a-zombie-now- game.  This has been done and done better in both Suspiria and Inferno. Speaking of infernos, Asia sets Mikey on fire with the power of magic and bad CGI. Her dead mom appears to drag his spirit to hell and the cycle of half-assed computer graphics is complete. Yeah, that’ll teach you to try and rescue your kidnapped son from evil cultists!

We get a shower scene with Asia where we get to see her naked. At this point I’m not really complaining because her tits are really the best props in this movie but I’m also torn. Remember the part where her dad’s the director? Yeah. Ewww.

After pointless shower time, the movie reaches a whole new level of stupid when a news report shows that the police are after her because they suspect she’s behind the riots and violence in Rome. We now have confirmation that this movie is solely going on to just fuck with us at this point.  It’s obviously stopped trying a while ago and its only purpose now is to see how far it can fucking torture us with bullshit before the audience collectively gives it the finger.

Because the film needs more padding Asia goes to enlist the aid of some alchemists to tutor her in her powers but they have the audacity to point out the obvious plot hole that there’s no way she can be taught enough in time to confront MoT before her ascension. I really would’ve appreciated this bit of insight a lot fucking more if the screenwriters had used it to actually fix the plot hole instead of just highlighting it. Bravo movie, your laziness is truly fucking astounding. So instead Asia just reads some books which increase her magic powers. If that’s all it takes then I’m personally wondering why the fuck I don’t have magic powers then. During my misspent teenage years I was all into that occult shit, and I still own more books on magic then a fourteen year old wiccan with daddy issues. Answer me this movie; by your own logic how come the only time I can apparently turn invisible is when there’s a bunch of hot chicks in the room and I’m not drunk? Ugh, fuck this movie.

Anyways, she’s directed to MoT’s mansion and she of course wanders around in near dark while a knock off Assassin’s Creed music plays in the background. And of course the lead detective trailing her is there and they join forces. Why not? She sees a locked door with symbols on it from one of her books. She presses the symbols from top to bottom and a secret passage is revealed. I’d complain that this was a complete waste of a lead up but I’m just happy this movie’s almost over. The detective gets captured because, say it with me now, THE PLOT SAYS SO. 

She then faces off against the cult and the annoying Omen–style chanting returns. Apparently the witches have learned all of Asia’s tricks cause there’s no sign of a toilet stall door this time. She passes by some freaky orgy where some disgusting shit is going on, like a woman shoving a goat hoof into a man’s back and another woman eating a guy’s intestines through his asshole. Surprisingly the latter is an apt metaphor for what it feels like to watch this fucking movie.

We finally get to see MoT in all her glory i.e. naked on a platform, and she honestly looks like an Italian transsexual Amy Winehouse and is just about as threatening. (Too soon?) The witches capture  Asia but for some reason don’t tie her up or bind her. MoT puts on the tunic that’s supposed to boost her powers and I have to say I’ve never been more happy in my life to see a woman put some clothes on. Remember that whole sub-plot with Asia learning to use her magic powers? Yeah, fuck that part righ in the ear. She instead grabs a plot convenience pole and uses it to rip the tunic off MoT. The mansion starts collapsing around her, which makes no sense cause she’s not even dead yet, and an obelisk crashes down and kills MoT. Boo.
Asia and the cop escape and then have a good laugh, no doubt at the audience’s expense for bothering to sit through this piece of shit til the end. The ending credits roll while a crappy screamo metal band plays over the same devil images as the opening credits. Hey remember when Argento used to employ good bands like the prog rock Goblins? Well, ha-ha if you do cause  even the movie credits gets to mock you now.

Analysis? Ugh, this movie fucking sucked. Besides not holding up to the original, Mother of Tears is just a bad horror movie in general.  The characters are boring, the dialogue is boring, the witches are boring and nothing is even remotely scary. The plot is the worst offender, as some jack monkey decided that adding some lame ass Omen rip-off to an Argento movie was a good idea. The other films didn’t need plot; they had visuals to support their movie. Sadly, this piece of shit has more plot with less visuals, and it ends up suffering horribly on both accounts. 

The color scheme, something that was actually quite good and noticeable in the previous two movies is just a dull bland grey and brown that wouldn’t look out of place in a Gears of War game. The only actual color in the film is at the end, where MoT’s lair has this dull red glowlight thing going on. Apparently this was intentional, as the production team wanted to show the movie slowly going from brown to red to simulate Asia’s descent into the occult, but in actually it comes off not unlike a bad case of constipation. In the spirit of that half-assed process I’ve tried to simulate this by increasingly using the word fuck, which shows my fucking frustration with this fucking no good fucking piece of fuck-shit. Fuck this movie.

        Verdict: Since this movie takes place in the 70s (from a throw away line near the end), I'm gonna let a clip from that decade sum up my feelings for this movie.

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