"That film was so hot, it set off the fire alarm system," exclaimed Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes at the end of this year’s first midnight screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Some of the co-ordinators at Ryerson University thought it would be a good idea to schedule a fire drill in the middle of a TIFF screening at Ryerson Theatre. But nothing could deter the hundreds of Dario Argento fans and faithful Midnight Madness attendees from viewing the world premiere of Argento’s final instalment of the Mothers trilogy, The Mother of Tears: The Third Mother.
The director took the stage and was paid tribute with a standing ovation prior to the screening. He was joined by his stunning daughter, Asia Argento, who also praised her father on his long career and gleefully told the audience no matter what, she still loves him more than they could. Before taking his seat, Argento was serenaded by his fans – “…Happy Birthday, dear Dario…” – followed by another round of applause.
Mother of Tears stars Asia as Sarah Mandy, a young art restoration and archaeology student who unwittingly releases the world’s most powerful witch, Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears, from her imprisonment in an ancient urn. At the same time, Sarah discovers she too is descended from witches and is now the only one with the power to vanquish the third Mother. As suicides and murders plague Rome, only she can prevent the city’s second fall to ruin.
The film also features Asia’s mother, Daria Nicolodi, Udo Kier as a doomed exorcist, and music from maestro Claudio Simonetti of the Italian prog- rock band Goblin. But the spotlight was stolen by one of the witch’s familiars, a small screeching monkey that dominated every scene it was in, orally and physically.
Gore is one of Argento’s trademarks and has solidified his position as a master of horror for decades. The destruction of a city’s population creates many opportunities for blood flow and he does not let any pass him by. With the assistance of past collaborator, special effects illusionist Sergio Stivaletti, throats are slit, guts are pulled, someone is impaled, others are eaten and the sets are painted red with blood.
In addition to lots of blood, Argento also enjoys filming beautiful, naked women, some of whom turn out to be lesbians. Thus, the evil witches appear to be crazed supermodels vying for each other’s attention. Of course, according to the just-turned 67-year-old director, “All witches are lesbians.” This is another of his trademarks. And although lesbianism in horror has been a target of ridicule since the 1970s (and rightly so), it is simply one of the things one comes to expect in an Argento production.
To be fair, much of the dialogue could have been lifted from a porno, its delivery was often no better and the plot’s conclusion is a little anti-climactic. But it is still an Argento masterpiece. He delivers with a few big scares, several moments of suspense, a disembowelment and lots of gore.