Midnight Madness: The Mother of Tears

There's a lot to love about the Toronto International Film Festival, but the deepest, darkest adoration in my heart will always belong to Colin Geddes' slam-bang Midnight Madness programme, which brings the biggest and the weirdest from all over the world before the eyes of chanting insomniacs at the Ryerson Theatre every night at 12:00 a.m. In many cases, these end up being the films you might not necessarily call high art at any other time of the day... but in that glorious corridor between midnight and 2 a.m., they're the best thing happening in the city.

Dario Argento's The Mother of Tears was chosen as this year's inaugural MM entry, and coming first in the line bears a responsibility for over-the-top zaniness all its own. (Last year's opening number? Borat.)

The Argento fans were out in force tonight, giving Dario a standing ovation as he took the stage, and singing Happy Birthday at 12:01 a.m. (September 7th is the director's birthday). Aside from the braintrusts at the Ryerson Theatre scheduling a fire drill for the film's midway point (!), Midnight Madness '07 kicked off without a hitch... unless you were watching the film.

Argento's shlock opus, Mother of Tears, stretches credibility as even a Midnight Madness entry. The flick is the third part of the trilogy that started cult classic Suspiria and its follow-up Inferno, but the new film wallows in its own stupidity for enormous tracts of time between its explosions of admittedly tour-de-force gore. If you've ever wanted to see a mother throw her baby off a bridge, or witness the chaos that ensues when a woman is garrotted by her own intenstines, this is your film.

Dario casts his daughter Asia in the lead role, as a scientist forced to confront the arcane when a millennium-old witch attacks Rome with her army of slutty followers. Z-grade acting and porn-movie dialogue don't make for easy watching, even in the quasi-lucid dreamspace of a post-midnight screening slot.

There's no denying the campy glee to be had as Argento Jr. slogs her way through a river of shit to escape from a den of berserk, orgy-crazed witches, but moments of inspired absurdity like this are few and far between in a film that otherwise spends way too much time talking its way around this nonsensical apocalypse, and not nearly enough time eviscerating the lesbian psychics and expositional exorcists.

Still, I'm jazzed about Midnight Madness this year and will be seeing 9 of the 10 offerings. Pop by the blog every day at 3 a.m. (okay, you can come later if you want) for red-eyed reviews of this year's lineup.

Mother of Tears re-screens later today (11:45 at the Cumberland), and then again next Friday at the Varsity.

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