Home Year 1980 Inferno (1980)

Inferno (1980)

Aghast at the sexually graphic graffiti in the taxi, she didn't notice that the heater was actually on fire.
Aghast at the sexually graphic graffiti in the taxi, she didn’t notice that the heater was actually on fire.

Twitter Plot Summary: An American brother and sister, in Rome and New York, investigate killings linked to witch covens. Yeah I know, just go with it.

Genre: Horror

Director: Dario Argento

Key Cast: Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, Veronica Lazar, Gabriele Lavia, Feodor Chaliapin Jr

Five Point Summary:

1. Is the water filled room just an excuse to have her walk around in a wet shirt?
2. That cab driver looks like a cross between Tommy Lee Jones and Leslie Nielsen…
3. It’s the Moon! Dramatic close-up!
4. Why’s he drowning cats? Oh, just because.
5. Murder! Witches! More murder!

European horror was a genre in its ascendence in the 70s and early 80s. Figureheads such as Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento were spearheading a new take on horror, a more violent, blood soaked interpretation that rallied against the comparatively tame films from genre stalwarts Hammer. Whilst perhaps not one of his better known/commercially successful films, Dario Argento’s Inferno is a classic. Bathing each scene in heavy blues and reds, it creates an almost ethereal, unreal image.

The story follows an American brother and sister, one living in Rome and the other in New York. They are looking into the mystery of the Three Mothers, a coven of witches. She does some investigating in New York, whilst he does some investigating in Rome, as you do. Through various plot machinations, it seems that the book they read, The Three Mothers, incites evil forces to dish out a gruesome death to anybody investigating the phenomena. The film itself is the second of Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy, following Suspiria and preceding The Mother of Tears. In honesty, I’ve not yet seen Suspiria or The Mother of Tears, nor do I think I really have to as it appears they’re thematically linked rather than directly. Back to Inferno, the plot rarely makes any sense, characters do things that are entirely illogical and, true to Euro horror form, characters tend to exist just to be killed in a gruesome fashion before the end credits roll.

Keith Richards had really let himself go.
Keith Richards really had let himself go.

The soundtrack is equally insane. Turning his progressive rock leanings up to 11, Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer) constructed a film score so bombastic that it works both as a representation of the film’s own excess and as a prog rock album in its own right. At times it threatens to obscure the film’s content, like at any moment it might just escape from the film entirely and disappear up Keith Emerson’s backside. Looked at from a particular angle, the soundtrack could rightfully be described as a bit silly. And… well, it is. Forget about that though, it’s really not important in the grand scheme of things.

What is important though is that by the end of the film lots of characters have died a grisly death, and we’re not any closer to receiving a traditional resolution. To be fair, any attempt at pandering to the big budget method of resolving a story wouldn’t have sat well with the Euro-insanity that would have preceded it. It won’t appeal to everybody, and the effects now look very much of their time, but Inferno is still a perfect example of what Euro horror does right – it provides effective scares, some truly diabolical dialogue and buckets of gore and violence. To call it accessible would be like calling the Greatest Hits of Michael Bolton the best thing to have ever existed, or to say Fifty Shades of Grey is on par with the likes of Dickens or one of the Bronte’s (doesn’t matter which one, take your pick), but for sheer entertainment value and inherent silliness it hits the mark.

Favourite scene: Diving into the water, not knowing what lurks beneath… apart from her keys which she dropped in there, of course.

Quote: “There are mysterious parts in that book, but the only true mystery is that our very lives are governed by dead people. Good night.”

Silly Moment: Why is everything so red?! Or so blue?!

Score: 4/5

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