Dario Argento's "Three Mothers" Film Trilogy

Dario Argento's "Three Mothers" Film Trilogy
A look at the trilogy from start to (hopefully) finish.
Updated: 03-03-2006



One: Suspiria (1977)

Directed by      Dario Argento

Written by        Dario Argento, Dario Nocolodi

Based on          the book Suspiria de Profundis by Thomas de Quincey (1845)

Tagline             The only thing more terrifying than the last five minutes of this film are the first 90!


Plot synopsis / Review

Suspiria is so compelling in spite of its lack of story and rather dodgy dubbing, that one has to wonder if perhaps it’s been enchanted by a spell — for that’s what it’s about: wicked witchcraft.


When coltish American ballerina Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) travels to West Germany to live and learn at the famous Tanz Akademie of Dance she arrives, of course, on a dark and stormy night. She is met by a strange sight out in the woods and things get even weirder when she enters the great hall of the school. My first thought when I saw the interior was, “Who cares if it’s haunted? I want to live there!” Gothic grandeur meets awesome Art Nouveau at every turn — if you’re a devotee of artsy design and architecture, you might find yourself gazing at the doors, windows, stairways and floors instead of focusing on the torn-out, bleeding hearts, the rain of wriggling maggots, or the flesh-tearing razorwire deathtrap.


Suspiria pulls no punches when it comes to the numerous gory, violent, grotesque and gruesome deaths — but Argento’s work is so stylized that he elevates formulaic horror to high art. Aiding the incredible visuals is the disquieting (and seldom quiet) electronica soundtrack by a band called Goblin (sometimes credited as The Goblins). Argento worked with them a lot, and George Romero used them for Dawn of the Dead. I usually find their movie music overbearing and distracting, but in Suspiria it is the perfect nerve-jangling adjunct to the freakish fairy tale unfolding onscreen. Punctuating the oddly primal music is ghostly moaning, unsettling cries, whipping wind, and the word ‘witch’ whispered.


As the movie climbs toward the climactic scene showing Suzy standing up to the queen witch, it’s just about worn out its welcome. There is only so much strange, arty, violent visual stimulus a viewer can take. To be sure, it’s style over substance — but what a style it is!



Two: Inferno (1980)

Directed by      Dario Argento

Written by        Dario Argento

Tagline             Terror that's hotter than hell!


Plot synopsis / Review

This macabre suspenser tells the tale of a witch known as the "second mother" who lives in a cursed building in New York. The mystery begins when Rose (Irene Miracle) buys a book entitled 'The Three Mothers' written by the mysterious architect, Varelli. In the tome, he details how he built a trio of abodes for the three powerful witches in the world. Rose soon begins to believe that the New York apartment building she lives in is the house of Mater Tenebrarum, The Mother of Darkness.


That suspicion signs her death warrant — but not before she dashes off a letter to her brother in Italy. Mark (Leigh McCloskey) flies in from Rome to investigate and is inevitably drawn into the Mother of Darkness's deadly bosom.


The music track is, surprisingly, not by Goblin. This time Keith Emerson from ELP tinkles the ivories, and while the score is sometimes overbearing, he does do a great job with the musical cues to terror.


Look for an homage to The Birds, which substitutes chucked cats for the famous feathered fiends. It's worth the price of admission alone! The visual effects, done by Mario Bava, are rather theatrical, but beautiful nonetheless. The gore is all there, and as an added treat Argento actually gave us a linear plot to follow between the gruesome set pieces. Some critics say that Inferno was not a worthy successor to Suspiria, but I actually enjoyed both films equally.



Three: Mater Lachrymarum (forthcoming)

Directed by      Dario Argento

Written by        Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch


Plot synopsis

Horror fans can quit crying… The Mother of Tears, the final film in the Three Mothers trilogy, is finally in the works. She is known as the youngest, most beautiful, and most deadly of the trio.


A script, written at the behest of Argento and with his own story idea, was completed by the horror screenwriting team of Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch in late 2005. Details are mum, but the screenwriters promise plenty of gore and plot points that will link all three movies together.


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by Staci Layne Wilson

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