“Inferno” (1980)


By Jerome Reuter

Inferno is the second installment in Dario Argento’s ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy. Following the huge success of Suspiria, the mythology of the three mothers was expanded upon. In this film, we would be introduced to Mater Tenebrarum, the mother of death. It would be difficult to follow up the mastery found in  SuspiriaAfter all, how do you make a sequel to arguably one of the greatest horror films of all time?

Needless to say, that’s an element that doesn’t work in it’s favor. If you look at this as its own film, and don’t compare it to Suspiria, it actually holds up pretty well. Unfortunately, it’s impossible not to compare the two of them. Both of the films have a very similar storyline, and use  the same tri-color cinematography.

One issue I’ve always had is with the plot, it seems rushed in some ways. Suspiria unfolded gradually, leaving you in the dark about what was happening at the dance Academy until the very end. The musical score by Goblin, did an amazing job at setting up an atmospheric mood that blended with the imagery. The color schemes of said imagery made the viewer feel they were watching a dark fairy tale, and not an actual horror film.

In Inferno, much of the story still holds weight, but lacks the atmosphere of its predecessor. Instead of Goblin, Argento chose to enlist Keith Emerso, of progressive band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. His soundtrack is gaudy and very ostentatious, and even over the top for the lack of a better term. Once again, Argento proved he was a master when it came to the use of color. Although many of the scenes are well lit, at times the color schemes seem  and out of place with the what’s happening in the film. They seem soft, and lack form and definition. Which are what’s necessary when using color motifs such as these.

Mario Bava's contribution.
Mario Bava’s contribution.

If Inferno has one thing about it that makes it memorable, it’s the infamous underwater scene, which appears during the films first act. It’s a well known fact Argento enlisted the aid of his mentor Mario Bava for this sequence. This is such a memorable sequence, due to how dreamlike it appears, and flow fluidly like a river. It carries on completely devoid of a soundtrack, leaving the viewer to be completely swept away in its current. Sadly, this would also be Bava’s last contribution to Italian horror, as he would pass away the same year.

Finally, there’s the mother of death herself. During the conclusion of Suspiria, the mother of sighs appears only briefly, but leaves a lasting impression. She has the appearance of a witch who’s been dead for centuries. Less is more, and it gave the ending that much more of an impact. The mother of death in Inferno ? Not so much. Much like Emerson’s soundtrack, a good description is over the top.

The Mother Of Death
The Mother Of Death

Despite the comparisons to Suspiria, as well as a few out of place elements, it’s still a good film. It certainly has its’ faults, but what film doesn’t? It remains a better effort than the third installment Mother Of Tears. On a related topic, it’s best to avoid that one. Essential viewing for any fan of the Maestro.

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