Rose ( Irene Miracle) is living in New York and researching an old book titled 'The Three Mothers'. It tells of the Mothers, powerful and dark witches, and their houses, built for them by an alchemist, one in Rome, one in Germany, and one in New York. Rose wants to discover the secrets hinted at in the book, but someone wants them to remain secret. Rose's brother Mark ( Leigh McCloskey) gets pulled into the web of secrets and magic, and comes to see his sister, who is missing when he arrives. Will Mark find out his sister's fate? Will he escape death at the hands of the killer lurking about? Can he find the answer to the riddle in the old book in time to solve the mystery, or will he become another victim ?
Inferno is the second film in the Three Mothers Trilogy directed by Italian Horror maestro Dario Argento, coming out a few years after the first entry, Suspiria (1977). Like the first film, Inferno is an atmospheric film with strange and sometimes surreal touches throughout . The use of colors, partiuclarly red and blue, resembles Suspiria. However,this film is less a fairytale gone wrong than its predecessor...it seems more like an urban gothic horror tale, with its scenes taking place in brownstones and buildings, streets and alleyways. Even a trip to a mailbox at night seems frought with menace...nothing actually happens to Rose as she mails the letter to Mark, but it seems as though something bad easily could (and eventually does).
Inferno is fulled with bizarre setpieces and strange and possibly symbolic images,which is appropriate, since alchemy figures into the story(alchemists often avoided actually writing their works in words, instead using images to symbolize their works and discoveries). One such scene has Rose going down some stairs underneath the building she lives in, and finding a hole in the floor which is filled with water. She drops her keychain into the hole, and has to dive into the watery abyss to retrieve them. Once down the 'rabbit hole', as it were, she discovers an ornate room completely submerged in the water...unfortunately for her, there are also some decomposing bodies floating about down there as well. Rose's brother Mark also goes down into his own 'abyss' later in the film, as he goes beneath the floor of Rose's apartment. Another reoccuring motif is bleeding hands. Sara ( Eleonora Giorgio), Mark's classmate in Rome, cuts her hand as leaves a taxi that drops her off at an old library. Rose cuts her hand on a glass doorknob when trying to escape a shadowy figure pursuing her. These bleeding hands serve as a forshadowing of these characters' dark futures, or perhaps sort of a stigmata-like purpose.
Animals also serve as symbols of mystery and magic in Inferno. Cats abound in the film, which makes sense, as cats have always represented magic and witchcraft. Rats also turn up, when the antique dealer whose shop is next door to the mysterious building where Rose lives takes a sack full of cats to drown. The shopkeeper is attacked by rats ( and if you ask me, the fucker deserved it), and then finished of by a malevolent deli worker ( I know how weird that sounds, but this is a weird movie, after all). There are also shots of lizards eating moths which add to the overall creepiness factor. Another creepy touch, though non-animal related, is a scene of the killer's black-gloved hands making a chain of paper dolls, then cutting the heads off. One of my favorite scenes ( which would also appeal to all you book fans out there, I'm sure) isn't that scary initially, but it takes lace in the library Sara goes to. It's an old-school library, with shelves and shelves of books...my first thought was 'I'd love to check that place out.' The visit soon turns sinister, though, when Sara discovers an alchemist's lair in the library( I'd stil love to check out that place).
Another piece of the puzzle that is Inferno is the soundtrack, which was done by Keith Emerson, of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer fame. It's a combination of rock, jazz, and classical (with appearances by Verdi). It's an odd combo, but it works here.
What doesn't work for me, and really is my only gripe about Inferno , is the main 'actor', McClosky. He's dull and wooden, and seems like we'd be more at home in a men's wear catalog instead of attempting to act. I find it hard to care about his character's survival while watching the movie, honestly.
Actor choices aside, I really like Inferno. It's artful, violent, mysterious, strange, and magical. It's vintage Argento at his artistic prime. It's a classic, and one of my favorites. Go watch it, already.
"The only true mystery is that our very lives are governed by dead people."