Dario Argento’s INFERNO (1980)
Not a film for those who like linear plotting and airtight screenplays, this is one of Argento’s rawest efforts. By that, I mean INFERNO is very much woven as a nightmarish collage of elegant set-pieces and baroque visuals with scant recard for logic or script.
This is a loose sequel to 1977’s SUSPIRIA, again focussing on the ‘Three Mothers’, a trio of witches who bring pain and suffering to the world. In INFERNO, the action takes place in New York where a young girl becomes convinced that her apartment block is home to one of the ‘mothers’. I’ll stop there because that’s where the director stops with his consideration of the plot. It’s all style from here folks.
The cinematography in this picture is just so beautiful it takes your breath away and Keith Emerson’s gothic latin score is the perfect companion. Much of the screen time is devoted to various individuals poking around the red-hued shadows of the apartment building. I say ‘apartment building’ but it’s actually a labyrinth of Argento’s alchemy with secret passageways, rooms-beneath-rooms and, seemingly, an underwater ballroom (yes!) in the basement. There are a number of real stand-out sequences and images. Top of which has to be the death of the crippled bookseller, who whilst trying to drown a bag of kittens, falls into a shallow river only be eaten alive by rats – his crutches agonisingly out of reach (there is a completely bonkers twist at the end of the scene too).
What INFERNO really achieves is the transformation from movie to nightmare. I suppose when assessing the impact of Argento on horror cinema then this is really his biggest achievement. PHENOMENA (1985) captures this ‘waking-dream’ effect of his movies in the most mature (and explicit) manner but INFERNO seems to be the film which solidified his ability to throw us into the oh so prettiest of bad dreams.
The last 15 minutes of the film are just utter chaos and at the closing credits you may well wonder what the hell you just watched, but it’s ever so good on the eyes.
Hotdog rating: 9/10