Phenomena (1985)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay Reissue)
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Overall Rating 64%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,147
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Genres / Traits: Giallo Horror Natural Horror Insects

A young girl, with an amazing ability to communicate with insects, is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders. --IMDb
Jennifer Connelly
Jennifer Connelly
Daria Nicolodi
Daria Nicolodi
Fiore Argento
Fiore Argento
Federica Mastroianni
Federica Mastroianni
Fiorenza Tessari
Fiorenza Tessari
Review by Nirrad
Added: July 01, 2008
I've been recently getting into Italian horror. It started when I watched Zombi 2 in December and I actually enjoyed it. I then watched Suspiria which I didn't care for at first, but after a second viewing I really enjoyed it. So when I heard there was a Dario Argento Set coming out, I thought "this seems like a good collection to start off with". Now I used to hate Italian horror films, and often never even gave them a chance. Years ago I watched a movie called "Cruel Jaws" and since I'm a huge Jaws fan I had to check it out. What garbage, it was basically just scenes stolen from the other films. After that, I heard that Dawn of the Dead was ripped off. At that point I thought to myself, "Can't these guys make their own movie"? All I have seen were cheap knockoffs to cash in on the success of the originals, and every Italian movie had terrible acting and production values which made them nearly unwatchable. Thankfully I gave them a second chance, because I'm really starting to enjoy them.

I decided to check out Phenomena first mainly due to the fact that I am familiar with Jennifer Connelly and Donald Pleasence. Phenomena opens to a big meadow with huge snowy mountains in the background. A bunch of women are boarding a bus that takes them to a school. Unfortunately, one of the girls misses the bus and is stranded. She sees a nearby house and decides to ask for help, but when she enters the house she is immediately attacked. Trying to survive she runs out the front door and runs towards a waterfall, but the killer is hot on her trail. The mysterious killer corners the poor girl, and kills her in a nice gruesome way. Meanwhile Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) has been transferred to a Swiss boarding school. On her way to the school we find out that she has a special power - She is able to telepathically communicate with insects. When she arrives she meets Sophie (Federica Mastroianni) her cigarette smoking roommate.

That night Jennifer starts to have weird dreams of a long white hallway, during this she eventually starts to sleepwalk right out the door. During her travels she witnesses a murder, but because she was sleepwalking she is unable to remember the details when she wakes up. As the days go on more and more people start to get murdered. To seek help about her dreams, she meets entomologist Prof. John McGregor (Donald Pleasence), and she shows him her special powers. Amazed by this, John gets the idea for her to use the insects to help solve the murders. Using her powers, she is able to gather clues that put her one step closer to solving the murders. Unable to solve anything she wishes to go home, but some people think otherwise and she has to now solve the mysteries in the Swiss Transylvania.

First things first, I went into this movie with an open mind and still had moments when I cringed. As expected, the acting is pretty lackluster from the cast with the exception of one. There is a monkey in the movie, and I was more impressed with him or her than I was with any of the actors. I'm not joking, that monkey was impressive. I just get the feeling that Argento spends too much time with how the movie looks, rather than spending extra time actually directing the actors. Lousy actors are not the problem, we've all seen "Halloween" and "The Great Escape" and Donald was brilliant in both of them. The story itself sounds pretty dumb on paper, but Argento actually pulls it off. I find it rather entertaining and original. The only problem would have to be the pacing. It tends to get a little slow at times, and there are even scenes that are completely unnecessary. There are a few scenes that you could easily completely take out, and it wouldn't affect the story at all.

The special effects are not bad considering the time this was made in. They're not amazing, but I didn't watch this movie for its "magical" special effects. I was a little disappointed with the violence in this one. After seeing Suspiria, I was hoping for gore along the lines of that film. But we are still treated to a movie violent enough to warrant an R rating. The first kill in particular was my favorite, and I thought it was pulled of nicely.

My biggest problem with the movie would have to be the soundtrack. After seeing the list of bands I was immediately excited. The songs chosen are great, but they do not fit in this movie at all. There is a scene with an ambulance driving off with a dead body, and you would think it would be a sad scene. But Argento thought it was a good idea to put a Motorhead song in the background. If you don't know what they sound like, download a track and tell me if that's appropriate for this particular scene. Although it does have Iron Maiden, so that is a plus.

As you can see, the film is definitely not without its flaws, but it is still a solid flick. It is not as good as Suspiria or Tenebre, but definitely more enjoyable than Inferno. Check it out.

bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 07/02/2008, 11:51 AM
One of Argento's better films, but not one of his best. Some nice moments and some stunning visuals. 8/10.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 08/22/2010, 02:48 PM
I always thought this to actually be one of his better ones, to be honest. It was gorgeous, at times, and easily had one of the best soundtracks Goblin compossed (and that is a statement); truth is, I actually loved the story, one of the best giallo thrillers of the 80s, to say the least. 9/10
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