American student Mark Elliot (Leigh McCloskey) receives a letter from his poet sister Rose (Irene Miracle), who thinks her old gothic New York apartment has links to an ancient coven and has some malevolent occupants in the form of the “Three Mothers” – the Mothers of Whispers, Darkness and Tears – a trio of evil, unnatural beings who are supposed to rule the Earth.
When Mark arrives in the Big Apple from Rome (following the untimely demise of his girlfriend), Rose has disappeared and a series of occult killings is gripping the city.
Italian director Dario Argento followed up Suspiria (1976) with this slightly demented but compulsive shocker.
Argento’s house of horrors is a towering apartment block, an elegantly dilapidated labyrinth full of secret rooms and forgotten staircases.
The witch’s influence seems to have spread beyond its walls, infecting the cluttered antique shop across the alley. In fact, even Central Park, where one of the characters meets his grisly end, assumes a strange aura of garish unreality.
Argento’s technical skill, though, creates enough striking moments to offset any inconsistencies in the plot.
An underwater ballroom sequence with a hideous streaky-bacon corpse is the most frightening set-piece in the Argento canon.