Phenomena (1985)

phenomena poster 1985 movie dario argento jennifer connelly
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Over-the-top story, crazy deaths

Too bizarre for some, bad animated bugs

Movie Info

Movie Name: Phenomena

Studio: New Line Cinema

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): January 31, 1985

MPAA Rating: R

phenomena jennifer connelly maggot pit

The swimming pool at this school leaves a lot to be desired

Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) has been sent to an exclusive girls’ school in the Swiss Alps by her movie star father.  When Jennifer arrives, she learns that horrible murders have been occurring in the town and the mystery seems to surround the school.  When Jennifer becomes a target when she “sees” the killer during a sleepwalking spell, Jennifer’s secret could be the only thing that saves her.  Jennifer can speak to insects and they follow her orders.  Teamed with an entomologist named John McGregor (Donald Pleasence), Jennifer could be the key to finding the killer…but the killer could be coming for her first!

Written and directed by Dario Argento (with additional scripting by Franco Ferrini), Phenomena is an Italian horror film.  The giallo movie was released in the united states as Creepers in an edited format.  The movie was met with mixed to negative reviews upon its release but gained a cult following over the years.

phenomena mutant killer kid

He just needs braces…

A friend and I rented Creepers as kids.  I can remember watching the movie and questioning what was going on.  From all the bizarre subplots to the nonstop crazed ending, Creepers was a bizarre movie.  I didn’t see Phenomena until much later…but the oddity of the film carries on.

Phenomena is one of those movies I list when people talk about “I can’t believe that is a movie” type of movie.  Essentially, the plot boils down to a superhero movie (a girl who can control insects) meets a horror movie.  Argento throws everything into the script from mutant killers, psychic powers, sleepwalking, and a monkey with a scalpel…It doesn’t go anywhere you think it would go and that is part of the joy of the film.

The movie’s acting is all over the place.  In general, there is overacting on all parties.  Jennifer Connelly had just done Once Upon a Time in America before this film and has a lot of pressure on her as the lead of the movie.  Daria Nicolodi is over-the-top as the teacher and even Donald Pleasence’s accent is crazy.

phenomena chimpanzee scalpel

There aren’t enough movies starring scalpel wielding monkeys

The movie is loaded with great visuals.  Like many Argento films, the colors are bright and the music is booming.  You have classic Argento moments like the head severing at the beginning of the film (followed by one later) and gross-out scenes like the pool full of maggots (the animated bugs look dated).  The movie is more “horrific” than some of his other giallos.

Phenomena is a must see.  It is the type of movie that lives up to the odd plot and there aren’t many “unbelievable” movies (how many movies end up with a monkey embrace?)  Argento has a vision and it might not be everyone’s vision, but it is unique and that isn’t always the case in movies especially now in the time of remakes and sequels.  Phenomena is a true original and worth seeking out if you are a fan of horror or the bizarre.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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