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Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 142: Inferno

Feelin' hot, hot, hot

One of the best parts of doing this blog is to discover new movies and see films I've wanted to see for a long time. It also gives me a chance to explore writers and directors that are well-known in the horror world, but whose works never make it on to television. One of these directors is Dario Argento. For years, I have heard people praise his work, but it was never readily available for me to watch. Now, thanks to the internet and streaming video, you're able to watch just about anything. I really enjoyed Argento's work on Masters of Horror: Pelts, but that was based on a short story and geared towards an American audience. Would I like Argento in his crazy prime?

Written and directed by Dario Argento, Inferno is a 1980 supernatural horror film and sequel to Suspiria. The movie is based in part on the concept of “Our Ladies of Sorrow” from the book Suspiria de Profundis. Rose Elliot, a young woman living in New York City, reads an old book written by Verelli called The Three Mothers which tells of three sisters who rule the world through sorrow, tears, and darkness. Each sister lives in a different house; one in New York, Freiburg, and Rome. Rose believes she is living in one of the houses and writes to her brother, Mark, who is studying Musicology in Rome. Mark's friend Sara reads the letter and goes to the library to read The Three Mothers. She is attacked by a deformed man who recognizes the book, but is able to escape. Back at her apartment, Sara and a man named Carlo are stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. Rose calls Mark, telling him she is afraid of what she has discovered. Two shadowy figures appear and brutally murder her. Mark travels to New York where he encounters a strange nurse caring for an old mute named Professor Arnold. He learns that Rose is missing and seeks out the man who sold her the book, Kazanian. He is of no help and is soon killed by lots of cats. Mark is able to discover from Rose's letter, a secret passageway underneath her floor where he discovers Professor Arnold. Who is this Professor and his nurse and what do they want with Mark?

"Where do you get your nails done?"

If my description sounds a bit off and confusing, you're not alone. Right off the bat, I was screwed because this is the second of the Three Sisters trilogy of Argento films. I had no idea, and there's really know way to know that unless you look it up. Inferno is watchable on it's own, but I have to assume that seeing Suspiria first would answer a lot of questions. Different is the best way to describe this movie. The story is very abstract, unlike most horror movies that come out today. During the entire movie, I kept saying to myself “What the hell is going on?” No amount of mind-altering substances can really help follow or explain just what is happening. The motivations for characters are questionable and some are introduced just to be killed. When it comes to an Argento movies, I know you're not supposed to understand everything, but I understood just about nothing and was left scratching my head. The violence is pretty good and the blood used had a thick, paint like texture to it. The scene where Kazanian was attacked was unintentionally hysterical. It pretty much looked like people off screen were tossing cats in his face.

Despite my general confusion, I kept watching because the movie is still captivating. The bright and specific colors used in the movie are staples for Argento and make for a rich viewing experience. Unlike Suspiria, which used the awesome synth music of Goblin, Inferno has a coke-fueled rock-opera composed by Keith Emerson. The music is particularly loud and doesn't really fit in with what's happening on screen. Where Goblin could create that vintage 70's-80's horror atmosphere, Emerson's music bludgeons you over the head with a copy of Xanadu. Another major complaint I had was that the movie appeared to be dubbed. I was following the actors mouths, and they were definitely speaking English, but the voices were off. Maybe this was just the version I watched, but if this was intentional, why?! Is it just to fuck with the audience even more? I can't really talk about the acting because of this problem, but it seemed fine.

"Gasp! That was my good knife!"

One of the biggest questions I ask myself whenever I review a movie is, “Was I entertained?” So did Inferno entertain me? In a word, no. I found the story so confusing and crazy that I couldn't really focus on what was happening. I spent most of the time going “What the fuck?” That's not to say the movie isn't good, because there are good things in it, it was just too much to handle. Inferno has good violence and is cinematically beautiful. I may have enjoyed it more if I had seen Suspiria, but you should be able to pick up a movie and be able to follow it, even if it is out of order. I understand that I don't get “it” and that's fine. To be clear, I don't hate Inferno and I do think you should watch it. You should just be prepared for a trip into the insane world of Dario Argento.


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