Finally got around to making use of my extended free trial period of Shudder with a screening of Inferno. This middle chapter in Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy isn’t nearly as well-regarded as the earlier Suspiria, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. While the film lacks a strong central protagonist, it features a significantly more clearly-defined narrative throughline, with an old (and possibly cursed) book and a misplaced letter motivating a disparate group of characters to unravel a centuries-old mystery.
Despite this minor difference in story structure, Inferno retains its predecessor’s haunting, dreamlike atmosphere: our victims-to-be dive into flooded basements in search of lost keys, wade ankle-deep into rat-infested sewage to dispose of a sackful of demon-possessed cats, and flee onto rooftops to escape their pursuers because… well, those are the kinds of illogical decisions we make in our nightmares. I’d go as far as to argue that the setting, a New York apartment building, is actually much scarier that Suspiria’s ballet academy, because it’s more universally recognizable: evil, it implies, can strike you down anywhere—even in your own home!
It never quite achieves Suspiria’s relentless pace and energy, and the iconic Goblin score is sorely missed, but Inferno remains a masterwork of horror in its own right. Seeing it has even gotten me interested in tracking down Mother of Tears, the series’ widely maligned conclusion. After all, it can’t be that bad… can it?
[Originally written February 12, 2018.]