Ten infernos

I wanted to see Dario Argento's Inferno (1980), and in Googling for it, several other Infernos popped up, so today's movies are all Infernos and nothing but.

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Dante's Inferno (2007) 

Dante's alleged classic is a famous book, so even if you haven't read it (I certainly haven't) you know the gist of it: Dead guy gets a guided tour of Hell, led by someone who's been dead longer.

This time the story is told as a cartoon, with a present-day wisecracking protagonist. It's a clever idea, and it's done with cut-out characters bouncing through painted backdrops, South Park-style.

Dante (voiced by Dermot Mulroney) meets a lot of dead celebrities, politicians, and war criminals, each gets a quick mocking and then we're on to the next. Sort of a Friar's Roast in Hell.

It's mildly funny and mildly interesting, perhaps mildly offensive to Christians, so it gets a mild thumbs up from me.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Dante's Inferno (2010)

This is another animated adaptation of Dante's epic poetic visit to Hell. Unlike the above, this hews close to the original storys. Dante was very Catholic, and intended his book to frighten readers into living a good life so they'd never have to suffer in Hell. 

Maybe this cartoon is brilliant — it sure looks good — but with no jokes, it bored the bejeebers out of me.

If you have a book report due, this movie of Dante's Inferno would be better than Cliffs Notes, but I don't have a report due, and it felt like sitting in church.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Green Inferno (2013)

The Neverending
Film Festival

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I'd been grossed out by a gory horror movie. This was that movie. It's not the worst gory movie I've seen. It's just another, that's all, and it's the last.

Two college girls see a political protest out the window of their dorm. One of them jokes about the protesters, but the other is intrigued, and becomes an activist.

What motivates her activism? Well, the protest she admired from her window was for better pay for the school's janitors. Soon, though, she's shocked at a lecture on female genital mutilation. She attends an activists' meeting, and argues with the leader, who later asks her, "What's the cause you care about the most? I mean, they're all important, but what keeps you up at night?"

"Women's rights in Africa," she answers, which is never mentioned again in the film. Instead she joins a group of radicals who charter a plane to the Amazon rain forest, to padlock themselves to trees and stop the bulldozers.

Um, I wasn't one of the Chicago Seven, and claim no expertise on activism, but I've carried a few placards in my time. Nobody goes to a meeting or a protest to decide what they're protesting. You know what you're protesting, before you go.

Also, I've never met any activists who charter planes to their protests.

The group's leader is charismatic, or so someone says, but he's repulsive from the git-go, and it's no surprise when he's revealed to be less than idealistic.

Meanwhile, the group's protest in the Amazon goes wrong, and their next chartered flight crashes into the Amazon rain forest they were there to protect — oh, the irony. The survivors are imprisoned by a native tribe that has a recipe for humans, and after that, the activists get chopped and eaten raw.

Lorenza Izzo stars, and she screams very well. Some of the other actors, portraying 'frightened' and 'doomed', pull off their roles quite convincingly, too. Almost all of the many on-screen deaths are very realistic, and if that's what you want in a scary movie, this is the scary movie for you.

It was written and directed by Eli Roth, who made Hostel and the remake of Death Wish, two movies I've never seen and never will.

If there's a message behind the mayhem of The Green Inferno, it's that natives are savages and activism is naïve and foolhardy. That might be giving Roth too much credit, though. I'm not sure he had any message in mind, only gruesomeness.

In the closing credits, the actors' names are listed beside their Twitter handles. In case you want to get in touch?

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Hotel Inferno (2013)

Before the opening credits, someone entirely wrapped up like The Mummy gets stabbed in the throat, blood spurts all over his chest, and I was done with this movie in thirty seconds. That's a new record for me, but like I said, I am simply done with modern horror movies that think gory is scary.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Inferno (1953)

A man has been injured in the desert, and his wife and her lover leave him in the hot sun to die. The man they've abandoned, alone out there, builds an impromptu splint for his broken leg, and makes slow progress a few feet at a time, limping and crawling toward civilization. He's kind enough to narrate his scenes, so you know what he's thinking.

"They probably think I'm dead already," he says. "They sure had a nice set-up, pretty near perfect. Just one little flaw — they picked the wrong guy."

That wrong guy is Robert Ryan, and he's good and so's the movie, but it's not as good as it should've been. Wish it had more of a desert vibe, with scorpions and an oppressive heat. There's never much sweat on Ryan's face. It's called Inferno, but the movie feels almost air conditioned.

IMDB says it was filmed in California's Mojave Desert, and some of the establishing shots were, but several key scenes were filmed on sets, not on location, and not very convincingly.

Ryan's character is a millionaire, for no reason. It adds nothing to the plot. He could've been an ordinary schmo, doublecrossed by his wife, and making him wealthy only feeds into society's bullshit belief that rich people are better people. 

Here's something that made me chuckle, so I took a screenshot for ya. It's from an early, inconsequential scene, with a boss and his secretary in perfectly matching work outfits. It's an office, but it looks like the day shift at the Baby Blue Café.

Costume design by Dorothy Jeakin, and IMDB says she won three Oscars, so shut up, Doug.

Yeah, my review meandered a little. Sorry, I lost my way in the desert. This Inferno is a good movie, not great, about one man against the air conditioned elements. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Inferno (1980)

This Inferno was written and directed by Dario Argento, but it's in English. All his other flicks that I've seen were in his native Italian.

Hearing Argento in my native language, the actors all seem to speak with an off cadence that ain't quite right, saying every line as if it's the only line, not really part of a conversation. And I'd never noticed before, but now I can't not notice that actors in Argento's Italian-language features speak the same way.

Watch and listen and see if you don't agree. In Italian, the actors' odd delivery gets lost in the myriad other odd things about Argento films, but in English it's much more obvious for me. 

Anyway, the movie starts with an American woman reading an Italian book with an English title, The Three Mothers, with the help of an italiano-English dictionary. The book is all about some too-complicated prediction or curse about three mothers in three different cities; I rewound and played that part twice, still didn't get it, and decided I probably wouldn't need it, so I watched the rest of the movie without really understanding the set-up.

Hey, I dropped out of high school — I don't do homework.

The woman goes poking around in an old castle, which is exactly what you shouldn't do in a horror movie, dummy. She accidentally drops an ugly but cherished piece of jewelry into a flooded basement, and dives in after it. This leads to a memorable underwater horror sequence that's jammed with wet goosebumps.

After that, there are several surprise murders, usually bloody and really no surprise at all, since it's Argento. That book The Three Mothers keeps coming into play, and someone spooky is aghast to see the book, tries to steal it from her. Which is confusing, because the movie's main lady bought her copy in an ordinary book store, and we see three copies of the book in another book store. It's a best seller, not a rare treasure.

A subplot has a creepy old man killing housecats. Dario doesn't like cats, I guess, but he also doesn't know cats. If you know cats you'll know that when the cats attack, they're clearly not leaping on the victim, they're being thrown at the victim by someone off-camera. Instead of scary, it's hokey, stupid, and unconvincing.

Argento's Inferno is better than most horror movies, but it's the worst film I've seen by Argento. His best remains Susperia, and that's the Argento you ought to see if you're new to Argento. This one feels like a collection of spooky or bloody moments, but it doesn't add up. 

Music by Keith Emerson, without Lake and Palmer. It's fine, but it's not Goblin, the band that scored Argento's better films, so it's a definite subtraction. So's speaking English. 

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Inferno (1998)

There's been a big solar explosion, and it's having hot repercussions here on Earth. The forecast is 145° and too damn sunny in L.A., with a chance of rioting in the streets.

I was pretty sure this made-for-TV movie would stink, but it's actually on the edge of being good.

Sure, the special effects never come close to being convincing, and you might be skeptical about the science — why would sunspots lead to jellyfish attacks? The dialogue rings true, though, or as true as possible in a story this unlikely, and the actors are all acting.

It's cockamamy but never dull. There are the ordinary half-dozen subplots, and I could've done without the crazed ex-boyfriend stuff. But the storyline about a teacher running low on patience with a student is actually touching. There's also an upbeat moment at the end that's so quick and underplayed that you might miss it if you're looking away.

This is why I enjoy watching cheapo movies — because sometimes they surprise you. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Inferno (2002)

"Only you can prevent forest fires," is one of the first lines of dialogue in this Inferno. It's spoken as a joke, and that's the movie's idea of foreshadowing. Moments later, some heavy drinking teenagers playing with fireworks accidentally trigger a fire in the forest, and the movie is ablaze. Who will escape? Who will be charbroiled?

The fire chief is a beautiful blonde who wants to close the mountain roads due to fire danger. Dean Stockwell plays the town's mayor like he's the mayor of Sharktown in Jaws: "You're not serious about closing that road, are you? We need those tourists!" To double down on the joke, another character hums the theme from Jaws. It's the only intentionally funny moment in The Green Inferno.

Unintentionally, though, the giggles keep coming. Bland people have serious but bland conversations, tempers flare dramatically but blandly, and let's look at a photo of the dead spouse and be cue the sad music.

Of course there's a rebellious teenager at home, who shouts, "Fire, fire, fire, fire! Call the great fireman! You can put out all the fires you want, Mother, all of them, and it still won't bring that guy back!"

At that point, you simply know that ① the kid will be imperiled by the fire, ② Mom will rescue her, and ③ by the end of the movie Mom will find another great guy. And saying so doesn't count as spoilers, because I wrote that sentence before the girl was imperiled, before Mom rescued her, and before Fire Chief Mom made goo-goo eyes at that great guy at the end.

In a raging forest fire, a little girl shouts, "Mommy, Mommy, my bike is on fire!" Here's the burning bike in a forest fire:

This was written and directed by Dusty Nelson, so which is worse, his writing, or his direction? Even the script's few well-written lines are delivered badly, so I'd say the direction is worse. Close call, though.

Verdict: NO, but not BIG NO, because I enjoyed laughing at it.

♦ ♦ ♦

Into the Inferno (2016)

Werner Hertzog goes to Ethiopia, Iceland, Indonesia, and North Korea, to talk to people about the impact of local volcanoes on their lives. It's a documentary almost entirely about the people, not the volcanoes.

Is it interesting? Not as interesting as it would be if it was about the volcanoes, but it has its moments, and some of the people he talks to are worth talking to. It's weirdly assembled, though, and Hertzog talks too much.

He's German, and I wonder if the title got lost in translation? Into the Inferno is misleading. This should've been called Around the Inferno or Neighbors of the Inferno.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Karate Inferno (1974)

1970s martial arts and action superstar Sonny Chiba leads a ragtag bunch of bumbling buffoons trying to catch some jewel thieves. It's a lowbrow comedy masquerading as an chop socky flick, but despite the movie's title there are only a couple of fight scenes, and they're kinda lackluster. As a comedy, the laugh count is mighty low, too. When one of his cohorts' clothes catch fire, Chiba saves the day by pissing out the flames.

The score sounds very 1960s a few years late, but it's still catchy. That music is actually the only reason I watched this to its end.

Verdict: NO.


There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. I try to make these reviews spoiler-free, but sometimes screw up, sorry. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.   


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