Tag Archives: Inferno

Fright Club: Best Argento Movies

How can it be that we’re more than 250 episodes in and we’ve never done a podcast on Dario Argento? Well, we’d like to thank the Wexner Center for the Arts for inspiring this episode. We will introduce one of the films in their upcoming Dario Argento series, as will our podcast guest Scott Woods. But first, we’ll get together and hash out our personal favorites.

5. Inferno (1980)

The second of Argento’s Mother Trilogy, Inferno orbits Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness. She lives in a foul smelling but phantasmagorically constructed building in New York City, where Rose Elliott believes something diabolical is afoot.

A sequel to the filmmaker’s most lauded work, Suspiria, Inferno mirrors the stagey quality of the first in the trilogy. The architecture, the color scheme, the dizzying nature of the building itself give the film the surreal quality of a spell. This one takes on a neon soaked nighttime aesthetic that’s hypnotic. The opening underwater sequence is among Argento’s best set pieces.

Per usual, the Argento’s plot takes a backseat to the experience. A couple of these murders are especially grisly – appropriate, given that Mater Tenebrarum is the cruelest of the sisters.

4. Cat o’Nine Tails (1971)

Argento’s second feature delivers perhaps the most strictly giallo of his films, in that (before Argento reinvented the genre) a giallo is a mystery thriller. In this one, a blind former newspaperman (Carl Malden) teams up with a sighted but far less savvy newspaperman to figure out why so many murders are connected to the Terzi Institute.

Items that will become standards for the filmmaker: don’t trust what you see, science is a fun underpinning to a mystery no matter how ludicrous that science is, Hitchcock is cool – plus, the extreme close up eye balls and murderer POV that would become trademarks.

Surprises that he drops after this movie? Not only does one character deliver an insightful piece of feminism – “Whore equals liar equals murderer, perfect Italian logic!” – but the film actually murders more men than women.

Its color palette is a bit of a let down and it drags in parts, but it delivers a number of excellent set pieces and it’s really fun to see Carl Malden in an Italian horror movie.

3. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Argento’s first and arguably one of his best opens with a bang. Frustrated writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is killing time before he finally returns home to the States from Italy. But he witnesses an attack through the massive glass storefront of an art gallery.

It’s such a gorgeous frame for violence, and a perfect introduction to the maestro of sumptuous slaughter. There’s childhood trauma (the sort that turns a person toward mania), which will go on to become a go-to in the filmmaker’s arsenal. But what an introduction to his style!

2. Suspiria (1977)

American ballerina Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) moves to Germany to join a dance academy, but the other dancers are catty and the school staff are freaks. Plus, women keep disappearing and dying.

As Suzy undertakes an investigation of sorts, she discovers that the school is a front for a coven of witches. Suspiria is a twisted fairy tale of sorts, Argento saturating every image with detail and deep colors, oversized arches and doorways that dwarf the actors. Even the bizarre dubbing Argento favored in his earlier films works beautifully to feed the film’s effectively surreal quality.

It’s a gorgeous nightmare, bloody and grotesque but disturbingly appealing both visually and aurally (thanks to the second scoring effort by Goblin).

1. Deep Red (1975)

Maybe not the most traditional choice for Argento’s best, but it’s such a powerful step in his overall collection. He made three straight up gialli – The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Cat o’Nine Tails, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet – before taking a break from the genre with a dark historical comedy.

And then, Deep Red – a giallo, to be sure, but one that predicts the entirely surreal, aesthetic-over-plot supernatural thrillers he’d make next. Deep Red is gorgeous and bizarre, full of red herrings, childhood trauma, traumatizing children, tormented lizards as well as a number of themes he’s hit on since his first film.

David Hemmings (Marcus Daly) saw a murder, but he can’t be sure what exactly he saw. He’s sure if he can just remember it clearly, it’ll all make sense. This is a preoccupation of most of Argento’s films, but he’s never more curious than he is here. And the bloody, almost exquisite murders are more excessive and interesting here than in anything else he made.

Abandon All Hope


by Matt Weiner

Good versus evil. Heaven versus hell. The first 15 minutes of Inferno versus the last 105 minutes…

Director Ron Howard’s latest Dan Brown adaptation reprises Tom Hanks as the clearly tenured Professor Robert Langdon, once again caught up in a global conspiracy that will require his knowledge of symbols, art and religious icons to solve a series of puzzles.

And this time, it’s not just Catholicism that hangs in the balance—Langdon soon learns he’s tracking a deadly virus that, if released, would wipe out much of the world’s population.

Langdon spends the first 15 minutes of the film recovering from a bullet wound and massive head trauma, with no memory of the last few days. He hears voices and suffers violent hallucinations plagued with visions of medieval horror. The quick cuts are unsettling, as if Jason Bourne dropped acid while watching The Omen.

The Dantean grotesques invading Langdon’s head and complete lack of plot coherence also hinted at the chance that maybe, just maybe, Howard would pull off the greatest conspiracy of all and turn a lavish studio tentpole into an unhinged Italian horror send-up.

And then Langdon’s memory starts to come back. That’s when the rest of the film segues from Dario Argento to standard thriller. (You can reliably track the dullness of the movie with the sharpness of Langdon’s puzzle skills.)

It’s not that the thriller portion of Inferno is bad, although it is equal parts frenetic and nonsensical. Based on the source material, though, the relentless pacing is probably for the best, or else you’ll start to wonder when the World Health Organization started building up lethal military commandos without the United Nations getting concerned. Or why nobody is too bothered by the existence of a secret multinational security company that almost destroyed the world. (Or why the movie wastes the electric Irrfan Khan as the group’s leader.) Go in with the right expectations, though, and Inferno won’t disappoint.

Where Inferno really misses the mark isn’t so much its tiredness as a thriller but its complete lack of relevance. Paranoid classics like Three Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men oozed 1970s zeitgeist like blood on bitumen.

But in 2016, at the climax of the United States election—of this election, in these times—Inferno opts to menace us with an asocial Silicon Valley businessman (played by Ben Foster) whose views on humans are just a hair to the right of some actual Silicon Valley CEOs and venture capitalists.

Forgive the plot. Forgive Robert Langdon’s haircuts. Forgive Foster, whose face earns infinite goodwill by reminding you that he also spent 2016 onscreen in Hell or High Water.

But in a movie that, including the end credits, makes rational sense for maybe 20 minutes, the biggest unsolved mystery is how little feels at stake—and how unimaginative the film thinks about what the end of the world as we know it might look like.