In "Juno," Ellen Page and Jason Bateman held a brief debate: Who was the master of modern horror? Juno chose Dario Argento, the Italian director whose low-grade gore-fests of the 1970s have since gained a cult following. Juno, an image-conscious teenager, hadn't yet realized that it's more fun to talk about Argento than to sit through his movies.
Case in point: "The Mother of Tears," the long-awaited (by some) conclusion of a trilogy that includes "Suspiria" (1977) and "Inferno" (1980). The plot is threadbare: Construction workers dig up an old grave, reviving a witch who wreaks havoc across Rome. Argento's daughter, Asia, does her father a favor by starring as an archaeology student whose dormant powers may help save the city.
Credit the director for inventively strangling a woman with her own intestines in the film's opening, and there are moments when "Mother of Tears" almost seems like a send-up. Film snobs cite Argento's place in Italy's giallo tradition, a gory cousin to Grand Guignol. But in any language, "The Mother of Tears" is a terrible film. *