Return of Project Horror, Day 10: Inferno


Last week's collaboration with Will went so well that tonight I'm being joined by my excellent friend Kyle.  He is awesome!  If the world ended tomorrow, and I made it to the coast with Blake but then died, I would want Kyle to be the kind stranger who takes Blake into his own family.  (BOOM!  I just spoiled the end of The Road for you!)  Kyle is not just a a good friend, though.  He's also a true movie fanatic.  For instance, he has seen every single best picture Oscar winner, going all the way back to 1929.

Tonight's movie was Inferno, directed by Dario Argento.  It is the second of his "Three Mothers" trilogy, about an ancient trio of witches who each live in a different modern city.  As before, my remarks will be in black, and Kyle's will be in blue.

Let me just get it out of the way, I don't want to hold anybody in suspense. This movie was not good. And that's being pretty generous. I'm officially over the Italian "masters of horror". I've previously seen Demons by Argento and that movie was a huge yawn. I also watched Fulci's Zombie some years ago and apart from settling the heated zombie vs. shark debate, that movie was a steaming pile as well. So now let me set my sights on Inferno.
Man, ditto on both the movie and the Italians.  You know when everybody around you raves about a thing, and then you finally experience that thing, and all you can say is "Huh?"  That is Dario Argento for me so far.  After hearing from many sources that Suspiria (the first of the "Three Mothers" trilogy) was one of the best horror films ever, I finally saw it and was really underwhelmed.  Same with this one.  Since you mention Zombie, I should mention that I watched it on Day 10 of last year's Project Horror.  I actually gave it four out of five, based largely on the zombie vs. shark scene.  

Why, here it is now!

Here's my plot summary: The film opens on Rose, a woman who lives in a beautiful five story building in the middle of Manhattan that houses, as near as I can tell, exactly two other residents, and who is - I must say - exponentially more committed to retrieving her keys than I'd ever be. We are then introduced to Rose's brother Mark who sits in a music class in Rome where all the students are completely oblivious to extremely powerful gusts of wind. Next, Mark's friend Sara helps herself to his mail and decides to steal a book, get this, FROM THE LIBRARY! It's a place that lends you books, but she decides to go five finger discount with it, descends into a basement where she absolutely chooses the wrong door and compounds her mistake by deciding to have a little look see (always a bad move in a horror flick). However, Sara escapes the evil library of doom and eventually gets back to her apartment whereupon we are treated to the second soaking wet woman in the first 15 minutes of the film. Sara meets a man on the elevator who has nothing better to do than keep her company right up until he catches a knife through the neck. At this point Inferno pulls a nifty trick. It simultaneously had me completely interested and completely stopped being interesting.
I can't add too much to this, but it's my blog, so I supposed I'd best.  Right - so Rose bought a book about the Three Mothers from a bookstore next to her apartment building.  We're never really told why she was drawn to this particular book, or why she became so obsessed with it, but she is convinced that the building she lives in is one of three buildings around the world that house ancient witches.  It turns out that she's right... not that it does her any good.  She and pretty much everybody else who gets close to this information ends up gruesomely killed.  Like Kyle says, you'd think this would make for an interesting movie, but it really, really doesn't.  There are some kills along the way, but most of the movie consists of characters opening doors and slooooooowly walking through dark rooms and hallways.

There is some limited up side to this film. It's visually stunning with incredible sets and the use of color is very engaging. Basically, it's really beautiful to look at. The problem is what you're looking at sucks. See I couldn't even get through my praise without taking a shot. But really that's it. The rest of it is just a mess.
See, the look of the film was actually one of the things that annoyed me most about it.  I'm trying to think of how to describe it without sounding overly picky.  We probably agree that set design is especially important to a horror movie - you want your scenes to have an appropriately creepy look.  But the sets in Inferno are designed to the point of overdesign.  Every cobweb draped just so, with the camera lingering on it to make sure that you notice.  This part of the screen bathed in red light, and that part of the screen saturated in blue, with a pulsing red light in the middle of it to add to the effect.  It's so, so artificial and staged looking, and has so many scenes shot in first person view, that it feels like you're walking through a spook house.  And don't even get me started on the constant, thundering, rock-music-by-way-of-Latin-mass score.

I could go on and on about what's wrong with this movie, but I think I can sum it up in two words: cat attack! It might be worth watching just to see the cat attack scene. It's totally (unintentionally) hilarious as cat after cat is literally thrown at the actress who must then pretend like she's being attacked by cats. There's even a crew member's hand in the shot throwing a cat at the victim of the dreaded cat attack. I am not making this up. This really is a scene in the movie. Death by tabby! It's truly awful.
Why, here it is now!

Later on, however, the cats get theirs when an Armenian antique shop owner drops a burlap sack of several mysteriously buoyant kitties into a Central Park pond. Take that demon cats! Unfortunately, it doesn't go well for the Armenian as he falls down, is then himself attacked by rats (who you'd think would give him a pass considering he just disposed of a sack full of felines) before being nearly decapitated by a random hot dog vendor who I'm guessing felt it wiser to just put him out of his misery than to simply help the man get up and brush off the rats. Would that a random street vendor had hacked my neck at this point but I had to sit through the remaining half hour of this celluloid compost heap.
This was another problem.  Who the hell was the hot dog vendor?  Why would he do that?  When the brother was sitting in his music class, why the hell was there a woman in there, staring at him and holding a cat?  Who the hell is she?  What the hell was the significance of - you know what?  Nevermind.  It's hurting my head to think about all the stupid details in this thing.

Oh yeah, and there's a fire at the end so the movie's called Inferno.
Why the hell would a powerful witch who has lived for hundreds of years make her residence in a firetrap and not ensure that she had a way out?  Why?  YARGH!

Maybe someday I'll see something that changes my mind, but for now I'm convinced that the only good thing Dario Argento has ever made is Asia Argento.  Why, here she is now!
I give it one angry cat out of five.
Yup, same here.
 TOMORROW: We kick off five days of French horror with Calvaire!


Agoodmanmedina said...

I didn't have a bad day,but I got some info at the end that made me say: ergghh! I knew I had to come home and read your blog to get over it. thanks! BTW: Asia Argento: HOT!

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