The Horror Honeys: Three Mothers... of God What Did You Do Argento?

Three Mothers... of God What Did You Do Argento?

A Zombie Honey "Witch Month" Review by Bella


Say it with me children: Gee-ah-low.

If you’ve hung out in the horror genre for a hot minute, you’ve heard the term, you know it generally indicates Italian horror, and you know that it comes with more than its fair share of gruesome deaths. You probably even know the big names: Argento, Bava, Martino, Fulci. There’s no denying that Giallo is the reigning king of horror inspiration. If you deny this, stop it. Pacing, suspense, gore, gore, gore, and often shot-for-shot cinematography. Thankfully the dubbing isn’t something that translated, whew.

Now that I’ve said that, you probably think I’m a HUGE Giallo fan. And you’d be mostly right. I’m still catching up on a lot of Giallo that I missed in my early years watching horror, and that’s okay. Mostly because I can only handle so much Giallo at once, partly because a bit of it is REALLY bad. Sometimes, I sit down to watch a trilogy that encompasses all of the good and the bad that Giallo has to offer: Argento’s Three Mothers.

As a trilogy, Three Mothers is really fucking weak. But in order for you to understand why, I’m going to do a brief review of each movie in the trilogy, because I care about your Giallo consumption - and your well-being.

Suspiria (1977): 4 Ruined Stained Glass Windows out of 5

I’ll admit it. Suspiria is the stuff my scary dreams are made of. Notice I didn’t say nightmares. Oh no. The soundtrack is the stuff of my nightmares; Goblin rips away any light and leaves you in a depth of darkness that will literally haunt your dreams - it’s upsetting in such a great way.

Suspiria, with all of its psychedelic color schemes, is a truly unnerving fairy tale. An American ballerina, Suzy, travels to Germany to study at a top ballet school where she is greeted by nothing short of snobby girls, odd behavior, death, and an illness most likely induced by that “wine” she’s been drinking.

Argento’s camera glides through red flocked hallways and vibrant dance rooms as though he were a ballerino himself. The gaudy decoration coupled with bizarre camera angles and unnecessarily wide shots create a sense of unease that is panic-inducing all on its own. The story of Suspiria isn’t scary in and of itself. But Argento manages, in this first installment of the trilogy, to heighten all of your senses by completely overwhelming them. All of these things combine to create a truly enjoyable horror viewing experience.

Watch your form. Witches hate bad form!
As the audience nurses Suzy through her sudden illnesses and mourns with her the gruesome deaths of her school mates, it is a little disheartening to just stumble unto the cause: a ridiculously old witch and her coven of - you guessed it - ballet instructors. Throughout Suspiria, time is taken to appreciate the most meaningless of plot devices, and when it comes to the end - the big reveal - it goes up in flames almost immediately. Literally. It’s all so beautiful and so visceral that you can almost give the abrupt ending a pass. Almost. But, before that, Suspiria, is a movie that is like an unwelcome lucid dream in technicolor with music that was meant to soothe only the Devil’s soul.

Inferno (1980): 2.5 Creepy Basements out of 5

Perhaps three years was just too long between films for Argento to continue to make any sense of his Three Mothers, because Inferno is where this trilogy starts to fall apart for me. Visually, and even aurally, it’s hard to live up to what came before it, but Inferno tries its hardest. What this movie lacks in A+ Argento style, it makes up for in A+ Argento surrealism.

In this sequel, a brother and sister investigate- poorly- mysterious murders happening at their respective residences in Rome and New York. After stumbling upon an architect’s memoirs, they learn about a coven of witches known as The Three Mothers, and soon realize that they are living among them. I’m not sure what gave that away- swimming forever in a basement puddle?

Inferno takes dream-like sequences to the next level and keeps the audience in a perpetual state of ponderance: is this real, or is this just fantasy? Giving a backstory to the Three Mothers provides the audience with an understanding that, here, we can give up on understanding. And, while that isn’t necessarily a good thing, it’s not really a bad thing, either.

That's what you get when you go swimming in basement puddles.
With very little making sense in Inferno, what makes it mostly enjoyable is, as per usual, the technicolor kills. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to make the movie memorable. I think this movie missed a huge opportunity to focus on the actual occult of the Mothers (not pronounced ahhcult, btw) instead of the inane research the siblings set out doing. If you’re looking for something that is dreamy and bloody and mostly forgettable, this movie’s for you. Unfortunately, without some proper substance, there’s very little sustainability.

Mother of Tears (2007): Holy Mother of… Why Is This A Thing???

And here I thought that 3 years was too long to wait between an original and a sequel. I was so wrong. Seventeen years is too long. At this point, why not just give up the ghost and the witches? Seriously, this movie didn’t just destroy the the Three Mothers trilogy; it made me wish I never knew it was a trilogy.

Mother of Tears tries to tell you about some evil artifacts that unleash the the third mother, the Mother of Tears, on earth. I say it tries because it mostly just flails around rehashing a bit of the story in Suspiria and Inferno and adding bits and pieces of religious mumbo jumbo throughout. Luckily for us, this movie isn’t dubbed. Perhaps it should have been.

Either way, Mother of Tears is severely lacking, in every aspect, compared to its predecessors. There is nothing beautiful or haunting in the cinematography. The vibrancy of the settings, that the audience became familiar with previously, are completely gone. The kills are gory, yes, but they are unoriginal and seemingly without purpose. Mother of Tears, just generally, lacks any kind of soul. And, while it was made by Argento (and creepily starred his daughter), it feels as far outside of the realm of Giallo as he could get. Which is a damn shame.

All right. This was a good kill. But that's it!
Mother of Tears is not a good witch movie. It is not a good Goth movie. It is not a good movie. Suspiria and Inferno reveled in the “less is more” theory, whereas Mother of Tears seems to believe that “more is more is best." It isn’t. And, the bigger problem arises because not only is it too much, but it’s too much of absolutely nothing. Not even the boobies could save this movie.

As a trilogy, Three Mothers just isn’t worth the (wo)man-hours to watch. Maybe if you have some good drugs to take midway through Inferno. Stick with Suspiria and hope that someone has the balls to *gasp* remake the sequels properly.

RATING: Just One Mother Please

Do you have feelings about The Three Mothers?
Talk to Bella about the ahhcult on the Twitters.