Director – Dario Argento
Cast – Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Patrick Bauchau, Donald Pleasence
Release Year – 1985
Reviewed by John of the Dead
How does Dario Argento do it? Seriously! From 1975 to 1985 Argento came out with great flick after great flick after great flick, each with their own unique plot elements. “Deep Red” in 1975, “Suspiria” in 1977, “Inferno” in 1980, my personal fave “Tenebre” in 1982, and then in 1985…”Phenomena”. “Phenomena” was a fun and interesting watch simply because this flick took Argento’s common trademark of using animals to the max. Animals I say? Yes, precisely insects for the most part. Intrigued yet? Read on.
This flick stars the ever-gorgeous Jennifer Connelly as Jennifer Corvino, the daughter of a famous actor who is away filming, which forces her to transfer to an elite Swiss boarding school. All her life she has suffered from weird sleepwalking bouts, and has noticed she has an uncanny ability to befriend and control insects as well. Soon after she arrives at the school, mysterious murders take place around the campus, and she teams up with a local professor and entomologist John McGregor(the infamous Donald Pleasence). Sensing her ability to control insects, McGregor convinces Jennifer that she can locate the killer before he gets to her simply by using the insects to track him down. The plan is a good one, but this killer may be much smarter and closer to her than she realizes.
“Phenomena” is one of those flicks that if you are into unique plots, you will be hooked from the start. I really liked how this film focused on a girl who could control insects, and then use them to solve a crime. I really have not seen that in another horror film, and compounded with Argento’s great direction and awesome musical score, this flick is a winner. As a fan of Jennifer Connelly, it was also nice to see her appear in a film by one of my favorite directors, and this was only made even more awesome with Donald Pleasence having a role as well. As usual, Donald does his thing and left me in awe at how captivating his character performance was. Along with Brian Cox, Pleasance is one of my favorite Scottish actors ever. The killer in this film was just a tad bit weaker than the killers in other Argento films I’ve seen, but hey, you can’t have it all now can you? Once again, I can say that Dario had me at who the killer was, I made a guess around midway through the film but was proved wrong when my guess was killed. Oh well. Bravo Dario!
Argento’s direction is awesome as usual, and this flick definitely has one of his coolest musical scores to date. It’s one of the few that was not done entirely by Goblin, but in fact was a mixture of artists that included Iron Maiden and Motorhead. 80s metal in 80s horror? Heck yeah! As usual, we get a fair amount of gore in this flick, and the killer follows Dario’s strict guidelines for what makes a good killer. You know…black gloves, never being seen, smashing the victim’s head through a window, all the classic Argento traditions. Heh.
Although I did enjoy this flick, I do have a few knocks against it. For one the pacing was a bit slow, not necessarily because of useless scenes, but because this flick comes off as more of a story driven film, more mystery than horror.
Now this film’s climax…is one of my favorite horror climaxes ever. We get to see who the killer is earlier on than usual, with a fair amount of time left in the flick. Some would say that is a bad thing, but in this case it is a genius idea. The killer’s lair was awesome, and the ending sequence was not only pretty sufficiently gory but downright awesome as well(you’ll see).
Overall, this is a unique film from a legendary horror director that I recommend all fans of the horror/mystery genre check out. We get great direction, an interesting story, and all the other little knick-knacks and elements that make Dario Argento’s films so awesome to watch.