Why Inferno Plays Like A Horror Movie, According To Ron Howard

Ron Howard's adaptations of Dan Brown's bestselling novels have been, to this point, staged as white-knuckle thrillers that race through the pages of historical and religious texts. But Inferno, his third attempt at bringing Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to the big screen, incorporates elements of a totally unexpected genre: Horror. That's right, the Oscar-winning director of A Beautiful Mind, Splash and Apollo 13 dabbles in horror for the first time with stark imagery that serves the story, but also gives Howard the chance to flex his creative muscles. When I interviewed Howard in Florence, Italy on behalf of Inferno and asked him about this approach, he said there was a perfectly good reason, explaining:

I'm glad you picked up on that, because that's something that's not necessarily in the book. Although what Dan Brown gives us is Dante Alighieri and his depiction of hell. And he basically invented the imagery that we assign to hell. ... He was inventing the horror movie! Because so many of these tortures for the sinners were the moments that you've seen in all the great films, whether it's something bursting out of a chest or wrapping around your throat. It was shocking! And I thought, if Langdon and the clue path were going through a kind of a hellish gauntlet, and so many of the clues are buried in Dante's hell, I should use the imagery. And it was a blast. And you right, this was new territory for me, which of course is what I'm always looking for as a director anyway.

Not that Inferno doesn't have plenty of sequence of Tom Hanks' noted symbologist, Robert Langdon, sprinting from one museum to the next. In the film, an amnesic Langdon is racing the clock to stop a madman who has created a plague that will decimate the global population. But Langdon's brain is messing with him, and he sees horrible visions... like this nun, who is about to be bathed in a wave of blood.

Bloody nun in Inferno

There are numerous instances throughout Inferno where Langdon, through these visions, encounters some form of visual atrocity, and it frees Howard -- temporarily -- to break away from the chase and show off some of the cues he picked up from Italian horror directors like Dario Argento. Not what you expect from Howard, but in this context, it really works. Here's part of my conversation with Ron Howard for Inferno:

Inferno stars Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy and Ben Foster in an international sprint to prevent a catastrophe. It opens in theaters on Oct. 28. Looks for more coverage from our trip to the Inferno junket on the site in the coming days.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.