Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Eleonora Giorgi, Gabriele Lavia, Veronica Lazar, Leopoldo Mastelloni, Irene Miracle and Dario Nicolodi
After Suspiria became a surprise hit at the box office (despite a critical panning) Dario Argento and his then-wife Daria Nicolodi pitched the idea that Suspiria was the first part of a trilogy, dubbed ‘The Three Mothers’. The second film in the trilogy was Inferno and was released in 1980 to similar reception from critics and a much small box office return. Inferno for the most part feels like a stand-alone horror film. Apart from the opening scene which contextualising it against Suspiria, there isn’t that much cross-over. Despite this there are still points where Inferno feels like a poorer imitation of the masterpiece it followed.
Unlike Suspiria, Inferno doesn’t have one setting. It moves from New York to Rome and then settles back in New York for the final act. Because of the shifting in settings the film never drags and the nearly 2 hour run time flies by. Another way this film feels short is because it doesn’t settle on one main character. Every time you think you are following the story of the main character it moves to someone else. It keeps the tension high because no one is safe.
It is evident how Suspiria’s shadow is cast over Inferno. The same type of horror is attempted, with someone being entered into a world without knowing what’s happening behind the scenes. It never achieves the same high sense of terror that it’s predecessor does. The use of lighting and bright and bold colours is still here, but it doesn’t work in the same way. It feels more like an imitation of the original.
If Inferno wasn’t a forced sequel to a film that didn’t really need one, then it could have been a good film in it’s own right. There is a sense that everyone is in danger, the story works nicely and gives enough to keep you fascinated. The opening sequence where Rose (Irene Miracle, Midnight Express) reads the book detailing the Three Mothers is chilling and you’ll be holding your breath with her when she had to dive underwater to fetch the key that she’s dropped. It’s full of tension, and when that’s over we switch to Rose’s brother in Rome with just as an unsettling series of events.
Argento is a master of horror and it’s all on show here. There is a strange and unsettling tone throughout with the mysteries at the hotel that Rose is staying at and in Rome. Rose sends a letter to her brother, which kickstarts the events in Rome and bring the horror there. The effects are passable, but they are dated. It’s worth noting that this is a fourty-one year old film.
Inferno is a perfectly fine film, it just pales in the comparison to the masterpiece that is Suspiria. If there wasn’t so much expectation hanging over this one and it was completely stand-alone then it would be a much better film. The horror is there, it’s just not as masterfully done as Suspiria.