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Phenomena (1985)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Dario Argento

Starring:
Jennifer Connelly/Jennifer
Donald Pleasance/John
Daria Nikolodi/Mrs Bruckner
8 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Young Jennifer (Connelly) is attending a new school in Switzerland and all is NOT dandy. On top of most of her classmates acting like bitches, there’s also a serial killer roaming about and he loves beheading schoolgirls (everybody has to have a hobby). With the help of a wheelchair-bound entomologist (Pleasance) and her insect friends (forgot to mention, she has a psychic link with bugs), Jennifer goes on the hunt for the loony tune.
THE LOWDOWN
This a review of the full length feature (110 minutes) and not the butchered 82-minute American print that goes by the name of “Creepers”.

What does a serial killer with a penchant for schoolgirls, a young chick who communicates with insects, a pissed off chimpanzee with a razor and a pool of slimy maggots have in common? They’re all in Dario Argento’s off-the-wall classic "Phenomena".

"Phenomena" is by far the master’s most offbeat work. All of Argento’s trademarks are in the house, but he cranks them up 10 notches here. The typical black-glove-wearing serial killer is present again, Argento’s love of animals shines through gangbusters with “insects” and an angry chimp taking very active parts into the story. The theme of childhood also pops up, but this time it’s communicated through a pint-sized “demon” looking child (one ugly bastard). The atmosphere bursts through the screen with tree branches dancing in the wind, breathtaking scenery, eerie sleepwalking flashes and fairytale-like scenes involving Connelly and the insects. The gore is plentiful with heads crashing through windows in slow motion and one awesome surprise beheading. And it all ends in the most disgusting sea of maggots I have ever seen on film. Dario Argento really indulges himself here and it's definitely not for everybody. I can’t see the average moviegoer digging "Phenomena" but everybody should certainly respect it. This film oozes of imagination and artistry and that cannot be denied.

Now anybody that knows Argento’s work will also recognize the flaws that this puppy does have. It’s basically the same ones that are in most of his films. Yes, the dialogue is pretty bad at times and some of the editing cuts feel awkward. Argento also has a knack of slapping in a “heavy metal” song at the most inappropriate moments. In this case, it’s “Flash of the Blade” by Iron Maiden. Don’t get me wrong, I love the tune; actually, Iron Maiden was my first concert and my first favorite band. But the song just didn’t gel with the scenes at hand and it lessened their tension. One new flaw this film brought up in respect to Argento films was the identity of the killer and his motive. Here, the motive for me wasn’t very clear or valid. As for the identity of the madman, it’s never clarified for the viewer as to who was doing the actual slicing and dicing. I guess they were two killers? Right? Wrong? You be the judge. My last qualm with this flick was that totally unnecessary narration in the beginning. It didn’t bring anything to the film and felt like an explanation of the set-up made especially for the dumber audience members, kind of distracting.

Overall, I still adored "Phenomena". It showcases, creativity, tension, gorgeous images, great gross- out scenes, a fabulous score (by the Goblins) and an unorthodox approach to it all. This film is one of a kind and in this day and age, it's very refreshing to see. Argento still rules!
GORE
Argento goes for the jugular: we get scissors stabbed into a hand, 2 heads crashing through windows, two beheadings, a broken thumb, lots of maggots, a spike through the mouth, gooey insects and much more. This one is bloody!
ACTING
Taking into account Jennifer Connelly’s (Jennifer) young age, she does pretty well. She does have her more unconvincing moments though. But overall, I liked her. Donald Pleasance (John) always brings a touch of class to the movies in which he acts and he does it again here. Daria Nikolodi (Mrs. Bruckner) chews into this one and has fun with the part.
T & A
A chimp’s naked ass, do you need tissues for that?
DIRECTING
ATMOSPHERE, ATMOSPHERE, AND ATMOSPHERE. Dario starts the film off with a kool aerial shot in a mountain-like setting and he never lets up. We get stylish slow motion murders, slick shots, mood galore (loved the white-ish sleepwalking bit), a few good scares, solid suspense and even a “magical” kind of scene with Jennifer and an insect leading her to a clue. The whole movie feels like a grim fairy tale come to life. Great job Dario!
SOUNDTRACK
The score by The Goblins is astounding and in my opinion, one of their best (next to the "Suspiria" score). Argento also slaps in some "headbanger" tunes from the likes of Motorhead and he overdoes “Flash Of The Blade” by Iron Maiden. Good song though…
DVD FEATURES
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment

IMAGE: We get a 1.66:1 non-anamorphic Widescreen image that's grainy at times but the colors (especially black) come through.

SOUND: We get a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound that supports the rocking score and the many bug noises perfectly (creepy). A English Dolby Surround 2.0 option and a Mono French option are also included.

EXTRAS: Anchor Bay, once again, slap all kinds of Argento extras our way.

Audio Commentary: Director Dario Argento, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Sergio Stivaletti, Music Composer Claudio Simonetti and Journalist Loris Curci all pop in for this commentary. Curci asks a lot of questions about the making of the film and everybody gets to answer. A fascinating commentary, especially if you love the movie.

Theatrical Trailer: We get a pleasant non-anamorphic theatrical trailer for the film.

Behind the Scenes Segment: We get a short behind-the-scenes featurette that concentrates mostly on the making of the gooey effects and the bees. Fun times.

Claudio Simonetti Music Video: This video for the song "Jennifer". It's directed by Dario Argento and is a nice addition to the DVD. The video consists of behind-the-scenes shots and clips from the movie.

Bill Wyman Music Video: This video for one of my favorite songs from the soundtrack "Valley" and is directed by Michelle Soavi (Stagefright). This video also consists of behind-the-scenes shots and clips from the film.

Dario Argento interview on the "Joe Franklin Show": This talk show interview was recorded around the time "Creepers" was released in the States. It's ok but the interviewer is kind of a dope, he didn't even see the film! What kind of interviewer is this? Do your research, you bum!
BOTTOM LINE
You want a movie that steps outside the norm and plays by its own rules? "Phenomena" is it. Sure, it has its flaws but the overall result more than makes up for them. This flick is a bizarre visual masterpiece, filled with creativity, mood and gore. If “I Know What You Did Last Summer” is in your “Top 10 Horror List”, stay away! Others might appreciate it. Any questions?
BULL'S EYE
The flick was shot in English and dubbed in Italian for its Italian release.

The film was shot in Switzerland.
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11:41PM on 07/25/2010
My favorite Argento film RIGHT after Suspiria =]
My favorite Argento film RIGHT after Suspiria =]
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8:34PM on 10/02/2006
While this movie has typical Argento stumbles (some silly plot points), it's still scary as hell and is a cut above most other horror movies. The kid's face scared the SHIT out of me.
While this movie has typical Argento stumbles (some silly plot points), it's still scary as hell and is a cut above most other horror movies. The kid's face scared the SHIT out of me.
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