Italian horror master Dario Argento intended Inferno to be the second film in an occult trilogy. (His biggest hit, 1977's Suspiria, was the first.) The third film never materialized; perhaps he realized topping Inferno, in terms of paranoiac ambience, gruesome set pieces, and existential terror, was simply inconceivable. The film's splintered narrative starts in New York City, then moves to Rome and Germany, where assorted characters come in contact with an ancient occult book detailing the millennium-spanning activities of a trinity of vile beings--the Mothers of Sighs, Tears, and Darkness. Assorted characters try to end their evil reign. Fuhgedaboudit. Argento's New York is a glowing, primary-color metropolis of dread; every shot implies a terrible wrongness, or features the shocking intrusion of inexplicably motivated ultraviolence, with no breather scenes in between--it's all bad news here, whether surreal grue or whispered streams of dread. Inferno is cathartic in the way that defines the macabre arts: It gives mythopoetic voice and image to the feeling that the entire world is suddenly, and with terrifying randomness, going insane. And unlike the awfulness that's suddenly infected our lives, one can walk away from it. Or at least shut off the video.