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. *

Produced by Produced by Claudio Argento, Dario Argento and Giulia Marletta, directed by Dario Argento, written by Jace Anderson, Dario Argento, Walter Fasano, Adam Gierasch and Simona Simonetti, music by Claudio Simonetti, distributed by Mitropoulos Films.