Cult Horror Corner: Inferno
Dario Argento has long since been recognised as one of the greatest horror directors of all time. While his output from the late 80’s up to the present has been somewhat disappointing (his best, 1985’s Phenomena, was a fun but rather strange effort), in the seventies and early 80’s, Argento really was the man to beat. Films like The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and Suspiria are bonafide classics, while giallos like Deep Red and Tenbrae are exciting and terrifying examples of horror cinema at its finest.
In 1980 came Inferno, an almost sequel to Suspiria. While not following the same characters, or set in the same ballet academy, Inferno does follow the basic concept of the ‘Three Mothers’, the witches who were responsible for the mysterious circumstances shown in Suspiria. Sadly, that is all that remains for conventional logic in Inferno; it is not a film of story, but a film of display.
The film opens in New York with a long intro in which a woman is seen reading a book about the three mothers, writing to her brother in Rome Mark, and following clues provided by the book, which takes her down a cellar and into a pool. While the scene is long and patience testing, it is worth the effort for a brilliant and shocking conclusion; prime Argento scares at their best. From there, Inferno is more a series of set pieces than a film.
Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, as we are treated to numerous visually stunning and suspenseful murders and supernatural events. A young music student and her neighbour are brutally knifed in her apartment. The woman from the first scene is killed by a clawed creature in suitably nasty fashion. In the film’s best and goriest scene, a disabled book seller is attacked by rats, and when a vendor runs to help him, the most unexpected happens…
Inferno is likely to infuriate as much as it is delight; the complete lack of plot and, to an extent, good acting, will certainly turn off the non-converted. For the Argento fans, however, Inferno has stunning cinematography, a pulsating soundtrack, and stylish kills doused in crimson red. For a great overview of the film as a whole, just see the ending; you’re unlikely to see a more audacious finale to any horror film than the utterly deranged climax to Inferno.
By Harry Ford