RIFF/Retro Review: Inferno
Dario Argento may have lost it today but he once had a little something. He never really was a good scriptwriter, all his films have silly and incoherent plots, awful acting and laughable dialogue. But once he was a visual master and dared to be extremely weird, Inferno is a good example of this.
The plot is hard to explain as it’s really an incoherent mess. A young woman in New York is obsessed with a book about witches, “The Three Mothers”, written by an alchemist, and finds out that they might possibly be real. Then there’s another woman in Italy who’s also trying to find out the secret behind the Mothers, who happens to be a friend of the first woman’s brother. Weird shit starts happening and people start dying.
Basically, this movie is an excuse to make a bunch of crazy set pieces which involve people being killed in imaginative and elaborate ways. It also contains the same bad acting and inane dialogue as Argento’s other films and the plot doesn’t really make a lick of sense nor is it ever fully clear what’s happening.
But that never matters very much. Argento is a director who takes some getting used to (this writer hated the first Argento movie he saw) and is definitely not for all tastes but if you know what you are getting into and are in the right mood they can be a pretty good time at the movies. At least Inferno is, mostly. It works through a combination of visual splendour (Argento’s use of red and blue is truly striking and he sure knows how to frame), camp and batshit insanity. There’s also some really cool music (thought sometimes it’s a little too OTT) and while the plot is ridiculous there are some interesting twists so the film is rarely predictable (though part of the unpredictability is simply that there’s often little way to understand what exactly is going on).
Argento apes Hitchcock by (SPOILER BEGINS) introducing us to a character you think will be the lead character but ends up being killed (SPOILER ENDS) so at least he has the good sense to keep the audience on its toes. The film works best in the opening section when it’s at its purest. It throws you into the story with little explanation and the opening section has a marvelous eeriness to it. The film then loses some of the edge when the plot takes over and people start talking more, gradually evolving into an incoherent mess. But it’s hardly ever boring and whenever no one is talking it’s pretty fun, or at least pretty to look at.
Final verdict: A beautiful piece of trash. The plot is a nonsensical mess, the dialogue is laughable and the acting sub par, but through a combination of camp, batshit insanity and awesome visuals, Inferno manages to entertain. Just about.
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