An urn dating back to 1814 is discovered at the cemetery in Viterbo in modern-day Rome, and taken back to the Museum Of Ancient Art. Restoration student Sara Mandy (Asia Argento) and her colleague Giselle ( Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) decide to open the urn, with catastrophic consequences. A split drop of blood resurrects Mater Lachrymarum: The Mother Of Tears who is the sole surviving member of a triumvirate of evil. Soon, Rome is gripped by a savage wave of murders, suicides and a massive increase in cases of demonic possession. Pursued by Lachrymarum's minions, Sara must defeat the most beautiful and cruel of the three sisters, using the combined forces of the living and the dead.
As far as I'm concerned, this is a most satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, as Argento spins a twisted web of murder and malice with truly eye-popping set pieces and a doom-laden oppressive atmosphere, where the stench of ancient evil hangs heavy in the air. This really is a mix of the old and the new, with scenes and imagery harking back to the golden days of 70s cinema when exploitation filmmaking was an honest vocation. Cannibalism, sexual perversion, extreme eyeball abuse and graphic murder make this the most brutal entry in a marvellous trilogy, with a script that keeps things moving at a fair old lick. As there are many people who have yet to see this film, I'll hold back from mentioning plot specifics but there's plenty here for Dario's loyal band of followers who will doubtless be pleased by the appearances of Daria Nicolodi and Udo Kier; a namecheck for Susie Banyon; a very different score from Claudio Simonetti (driven by the spirit of Goldsmith and Herrmann, and close in places to Keith Emerson's INFERNO soundtrack) and there's a cab ride nodding to the films illustrious predecessors. A word too for Frederic Fasano's photography. Fassano - who shot DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? and SCARLET DIVA - does an excellent job here and if there's an absence of camera pyrotechnics, he catches the mood well with several 'jump' moments that add much to the atmosphere. Do look out for the 'Ghost Powder' scene as that famous 'Magic all around us' statement is explored more fully here, and I think the relevant scenes work well within this theme.
Like THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, this is likely going to prove a slow-burner and my two viewings to date point to a fuller appreciation as time moves on. For now, I'd label this a brilliant addition to the Italian maestro's filmography, and a major return to form.
Full marks to Optimum for getting the Region 2 DVD out so quickly. The film has been treated to a very nice transfer, although those hoping for a throwback to those eye candy colours from yesteryear may well be disappointed. Optimum's DVD has been passed uncut by our old muckers at the BBFC and really should be at the top of your list of imminent purchases.