Much like those struggling tormented artists that go through various phases of splashing assorted colors across a canvas, Dario Argento has also gone through his own different cinematic cycles wherein he splats assorted shades of crimson onto the silver screen. And, much like every family has that proverbial bastard red-headed stepchild hiding in the backgrounds of group photos, Argento has always had his own personal “bomb” lurking within the shadows of said cycles. Take his original giallo features for starters: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, The Cat O‘ Nine Tails, Four Flies On Grey Velvet, and Deep Red. Yes, they’re fun movies all-around, but many people consider Four Flies On Grey Velvet to be vastly inferior to the others (while some argue that The Cat O‘ Nine Tails is the bastard of the bunch).
Next was Dario’s early horror phase, which (for all accounts and purposes) started with 1977’s tour-de-force, Suspiria. The tale — wherein a ballet student finds herself in a school inhabited by a coven of witches — was the beginning of a proposed trilogy co-written by Dario’s partner, Daria Nicolodi. Between its atmospheric photography, tight-knit editing, brilliant use of color, Suspiria has since become a European Horror masterpiece, laced with ghastly murders and set to a throbbing music score by Italian rock group Goblin.
And then there’s Inferno (1980), the second of the “Three Mothers Trilogy.”
Like its predecessor, Inferno has a style and substance all its own. The photography is nothing short of breathtaking, and captures the movie’s eerie atmosphere with much gusto; colors seem to leap out at you like suicidal deer on a moonlit rural road; and Keith Emerson’s epic music score is both creepy and bizarre enough to make you want to buy the soundtrack. All of the factors succeed in making Inferno an aural and visual masterpiece in itself.
Yet, somehow, it’s still a rather “bad” movie. The dialogue has the power to stun you into a coma, with lines like “Have you ever heard of the Three Sisters?” “You mean those black singers?” forcing more than one facepalm to occur during its 107min runtime. Characters (many of whom come and go like it were a dream) seem to be ignorant of the fact that they are in danger — even when they’re being slaughtered by black magic. Our hero, Leigh McCloskey, doesn’t really receiving his “calling” (his character’s sister, played by Irene Miracle, actually starts out as our protagonist) until later in the film, and then wanders about dumfounded for the remainder of the picture — all the while unaware as to what the hell is going on.