Wow. It’s been a while since I have a reason to say this. Let’s see if anyone still remembers this warning. [clears throat] ITALIAN HORROR MOVIE! ITALIAN HORROR MOVIE! Now that I have warned everyone, let’s continue with today’s movie. Once again I find myself watching a movie that was written by Dario Argento, you might remember him as being the man that wrote the screenplay for Demons and Demons 2. Only this time, instead of producing the movie, he decided to direct this one. While Demons scared the crap out of me as a kid, the sequel was pretty tame in comparison so I wonder where today’s movie, Inferno, will rank next to them.
The plot: Rose Elliot, a poet living in New York, reads an old book called The Three Mothers, which tells the story of three evil sisters that tried to rule the world with sorrow, tears, and darkness. The author of the book, an architect named Varelli, says that he had built three separate houses for them, one in New York, one in Rome, and one in Freiburg. After reading the book, Rose believes that she lives in one of the houses so she writes to her brother Mark in Rome, begging him to come visit, then using clues listed in the book, searches the cellar of her building and finds a hole leading to a flooded ballroom. As she is exploring, she drops her keys and is forced to go into the water to get them but after grabbing them, a rotting corpse floats by her, scaring her to the point that she almost drowns. Rose climbs out of the hole and heads back to her room, unaware that she is being watched. In Rome, Mark is attending a music class and attempts to read Rose’s letter but he is distracted by a woman in his class who stares at Mark during the class then disappears when class lets out. Mark leaves class to try and find the girl, leaving the letter behind but his friend Sara picks it up. On her way home, Sara reads the letter and heads to a library, where she picks up a copy of The Three Mothers. As she proceeds to read the book, she hears someone whispering her name and, since the library is closing, decides to leave and continue reading it at home. However, Sara winds up getting lost in the library and stumbles upon what appears to be an ancient alchemy lab that is being used by a robed figure. The figure tells Sara where the exit is but when he notices the book she is carrying, he attacks her and demands the book. Sara gives him the book and runs from the library and, not wanting to be alone, invites Carlo, a neighbor she meets in the elevator, to keep her company. Sara then calls Mark and tells him to come over but when Mark gets there, he finds Sara and Carlo both stabbed to death and Roses letter torn to bits. As he leaves the Sara’s place, he spies the woman from class driving by in a taxi. Mark calls Rose but their connection is spotty and he tells her that he will come see her before the connection is dropped. Rose sees two shadows preparing to enter he apartment so she decides to duck out a back door. Rose tries getting out of the building but winds up being attacked by a clawed-hand figure, who uses a broken window as a guillotine to kill her. Mark arrives in New York and meets Professor Arnold, a elderly mute that is bound to a wheelchair, and his nurse. He also meets Elise, a friend of Rose, who tells Mark that Rose has disappeared. Later, Elise and Mark notice some blood near Roses apartment and Mark follows the blood trail but begins to feel ill and collapses. Elise witnesses a robed figure dragging Mark’s body but the figure sees her and chases after Elise and kills her. Mark makes his way to the building lobby, where the nurse and Carol, the hotel caretaker, find him and put him to bed. The next day, Mark speaks with Kazanian, an antique dealer that sold Rose the book, but he can offer no clues as to Rose’s whereabouts. That night, Kazanian is seen drowning several cats in Central Park when he suddenly falls into the water. A swarm of rats begin biting him and as he cries for help, a street vendor comes up to help him, only to stab him with a knife. Back at the apartment building, John, Elise’s butler, has stolen Elise’s jewels and given them to Carol to hide but he winds up getting killed. Carol sees his body and accidentally drops her candle, setting some draperies on fire. As she tries to leave, she becomes tangled in the flaming sheets and ends up falling to her death. Meanwhile, Mark discovers a secret passage underneath the floor of Rose’s apartment and follows them to a suite where he finds Professor Arnold, who reveals to Mark that he is actually Varelli, the architect from the book. Varelli tries to kill Mark but his throat gets caught in his mechanical voice box and he winds up strangling himself but before he dies, he warns Mark that he is being watched. Mark sees a shadowy figure and follows it to find Varelli’s nurse, who informs Mark that she is Matron Tenebrarum, from the book, before transforming into the personification of Death. However, the fire started by Carol has grown to engulf the entire building and Mark is able to escape when some debris falls onto the monster, killing it.
Inferno was met with mixed reviews from the critics, earning a 58% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics that liked it praised the movies use of setting to showcase the real world can be both beautiful and terrifying. However, the critics that viewed it negatively claimed that ” it lacks restraint in setting up the terrifying moment, using close-ups and fancy camera angles gratuitously and with no relevance to the story.” As for the audiences, many people did not get the chance to see this movie outside of Italy. Fox Studios did not release the movie until 5 years after it was made due to a change in management and even then, it was released to video in 1985, though it did get a limited release in New York theaters the next year.
This was an interesting movie to watch. The acting was ok at best, though at times Leigh McCloskey just seemed to butcher a scene with some fairly lousy vocals. The story was good, but rather confusing and the filming didn’t help at times as it seemed to randomly highlight stuff that had no bearing on what was going on in the film at that time. For instance, there was one scene, where Sara is calling Mark, where the camera cuts to someone cutting the heads off a paper doll chain, and as the scissors cut off one of the heads, it shows a girl hanging herself, which is confusing because that girl was never introduced at all. There was a lot of bright colors used in the film, either to help accent the violence or to differentiate between the old style building by giving it a more modern interior. All told, it is a decent and interesting movie to watch but unless you are a fan of Dario Argento, you might not like this movie.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5