Inferno (1980)

Dario Argento has had a long and storied career, but he hasn't done so by cashing in on a specific franchise.  His first three giallo films are often grouped as the "Animal Trilogy", but it was never an intent of his to have them linked, but rather the strange naming conventions of the genre in the early 1970s.  He never truly did a sequel to any of his movies until 1980's Inferno, which is the spiritual successor to Suspiria

Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle) lives in an old apartment building in New York City and has become obsessed with a book called The Three Mothers that she has purchased from an antique dealer named Kazanian (Sacha Pitoëff) which was written by an alchemist-turned-architect.  It tells of three buildings built in New York, Rome and Freiburg, Germany, where dwell three sorceresses: Mater Tenebrarum, Mater Lacrymonium and Mater Suspirium, respectively.  Rose believes her building is one of those and sends a letter to her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey), who is a music student in Rome, about her concerns.

After receiving the letter he is drawn to distraction by a mysterious woman with a white cat (Ania Pieroni).  However, his friend Sara (Eleonora Giorgi) retrieves it and becomes concerned, attempting to deliver it to him, leading to disastrous results.  Still, Mark is persuaded by Rose to come to New York, but unfortunately he finds her missing and with the help of Rose's friend Elise (Daria Nicolodi) tries to work out exactly what is going on. 

Working out what is going on is also a tough job for the audience as well.  Suspiria had some dreamlike qualities and, like a number of Argento's films, had points where one just gives up trying to make sense of it all and just enjoys the visuals, the colors and the way he works his camera.  Plot is often secondary in many of his movies, with the more recent movies of his that are more traditional not having the same impact or interest of his earlier work.  Even more so than Suspiria one must think of Inferno as one long nightmare as there is little traditional storytelling involved. 

Dario Argento wrote the script, but a good portion of the outline came from Daria Nicolodi, who by that time had given up fighting for writing credits on his movies.  Another uncredited force behind the movie, even to the point where he directed most of the scenes involving Irene Miracle and also provided many of the special effects, is Mario Bava.  He passed away shortly after the release of Inferno, making it the last movie that he worked on behind the camera.  It is not a surprise since his influence, particularly with the primary color schemes in the apartment sets and many of the outside locations showing his influence on Argento. 

The movie itself is a mixed bag.  It contains some amazing visuals, a few great giallo-inspired kill scenes and a totally strange attack due to possible supernatural possession during an eclipse on Kazanian when he tries to drown a number of cats that hang out in the apartment building.  Then again Mater Tenebrarum's true form, when revealed, looks like a Halloween costume someone's grandmother threw together, and is unintentionally hilarious at a point when the tension should be at its highest.  

I still found a good part of it entertaining, if more on the episodic side since most of the main characters get knocked off before they even really interact with each other.  Argento also made a bit of a departure this time, having Keith Emerson do the soundtrack rather than Goblin, and he does a great job with it.  Just wish he would have sounded this inspired on Love Beach

Inferno (1980)
Time: 116 minutes
Starring: Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, Daria Nicolodi, Eleonora Giorgi
Director: Dario Argento 



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