Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Film Review: INFERNO (1980, Dario Argento)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 107 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Keith Emerson, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia
Tag-line: "Terror that's hotter than hell!"
Best one-liner(s): Not sure Dario would understand what that means.

Best Exchange:
Sara: Have you ever heard of the Three Sisters?
Carlo: You mean those black singers?
Sara: No, I'm talking about mythology.

I will admit that this movie is not without its flaws. It's certainly not for everyone. But I will list five reasons that it deserves respect, both in and out of context of Argento's oeuvre, and I don't even have the space to get into 'death by house cats.'

#1. The poster. I might even go as far as to call it the best horror movie poster of the 1980's. A facial composite of a red light-bathed skull with flames in its eye sockets and a blue tinted woman's lips dripping blood. Wow.

#2. This movie plays musical chairs with its lead characters, which is a ballsy move since it's really setting up the audience to be pissed off. So we're following this girl...oh, she died. No, now we're following the friend...ohhh. Oh, the brother- ohhh.

#3. Keith Emerson's score. One of the best soundtracks to an Argento film. It's Goblin meets Wagner meets ELP's "Pictures at an Exhibition." It's in turns epic, corny, scary, hilarious, and amazing.

#4. Ominous wind POV. Argento's films are notorious for ridiculous POV shots from the murderer to crows to a butterfly, but INFERNO basically one-ups them all as a we the see the POV of an ominous wind as it blows open the shutters and into a lecture hall. There's no follow up.

#5. The Unmasking of the Mother of Darkness. This might be the ballsiest move of Argento's career. It's the big finale. The chips are down. The building's in flames. Our hero finally confronts the evil mastermind witch, annnnnd... it's a $5 Halloween costume rubber skull mask!

The intricate, beautiful artistic set is in perfectly choreographed flames, the lighting is perfect, the camera movement is exquisite, and they only shelled out five bucks for the big mask.

Congratulations, Mr. Argento. You win! I'm not sure exactly WHAT you won, but dammit, you won by a landslide!

-Sean Gill