Italian horror maestro Dario Argento made his name by turning homicide into modern art with a cinematic flourish, but with Phenomena he takes his stylish mayhem in new directions. The film opens with the dreamy grace of a ... more »fairy tale: a young girl wandering the green meadows of Switzerland and discovering a gingerbread house, wherein lives a monster more modern than mythic, a psychopathic maniac who plunges the picture into a lush nightmare. Jennifer (Jennifer Connelly in her first starring role), a gifted young girl at a Swiss school, has a psychic link to the insect world and develops a connection with the killer through midnight sleepwalks. With the help of a lonely, wheelchair-bound entomologist (genre stalwart Donald Pleasence, who inflects his sonorous tenor with a gentle Scottish burr) she turns telekinetic detective, which only draws her closer to the killer's lair. The densely plotted story becomes muddled at times (this is the busiest film in Argento's oeuvre) but the lyrical cinematography and gorgeous nocturnal imagery--dreamy sleepwalks, nightmarish murders, hideous horrors that emerge in the dark of night--take on a poetic elegance not seen in his previous work, providing the tale with a kind of dream logic. This is a slasher film reborn as an exquisitely grim fantasy: Jennifer in Argentoland. --Sean Axmaker
Originally edited for US consumption and released under the title CREEPERS, the full-length version of Dario Argento's masterwork reveals the method in his madness. Whereas the edited version was a fast-moving collage of half-baked themes which evoked nothing of any significance, PHENOMENA reinstates the crazy-quilt pacing, whereby dream-like passages surrender abruptly to episodes of screaming hysteria, all of which is essential to any appreciation of the film's dark ambitions.
Romano Albani's sumptuous cinematography transforms the breathtaking Swiss locations into a fairy-tale landscape where monstrous eruptions of violence disturb the illusion of tranquility, and Jennifer Connelly drifts through the narrative in a state of near-hypnotic grace, allowing herself to become ensnared by the machinations of a deformed killer and his/her equally psychotic 'guardian'. True, the longer version is bogged down at times by lengthy dialogue scenes which hold up the plot, and the involvement of Donald Pleasence's chimp is no less misguided than before (its final act of retribution crosses the line into absurdity), but the set-pieces are magnificently realised, and the final 20 minutes are as hair-raising as anything in Argento's ouevre. "
One of Argentos` best !
Knut Kristiansen | Oslo, Norway | 05/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dario Argento throws in all his trademarks in this horror/fantasy extravaganza.A plain crime story mixed with dream sequences, gore, state of the art camerawork, maggots, fireflies, broken glass, running water, beautiful young girls and a brilliant soundtrack. You name it, it`s all here ! Argento has made a lot of mediocre movies the recent years, but this 1984 movie is a true classic.The film is presented in 1.66:1 with a DD 5.1 soundtrack. Both picture and sound is good, but nothing spesial.Anchor bay has also thrown in some extras, but nothing very interesting in my opinion. There is a dull commentary with Argento and three of his collaborators in very broken english, a trailer, two music videos,a lousy behind the scenes segment, and a ridiculous Argento interview from a Joe Franklin show. And don`t be fooled to believe that the 28 minutes that is restored in this UNCUT and UNCENSORED version is gore.It is simply the full european version, and all 28 minutes are plain story and character building.No doubt that this cut is much better than the "Creepers" cut, though. It is the feature itself that makes this disc a must-have.They simply don`t make movies like this anymore ! (Neither does Argento, unfortunately !)Now I can hardly wait for Anchor Bay to release "Opera" and " Suspiria.""
I Climbed the Alps and All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt.
E K Maxmias | Close enough to Detroit! | 10/12/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This was my second dip into the Argento pool. I had recently watched "Tenebre", one of Argento's best from what I can gather. I was worried about a let down because I enjoyed that film so much. So I prepared myself. I read some reviews and took some advice. The results of my preparation were a mixed bag; some good, some bad. So, I appropriately lowered my expectations but hoped for the best. What I learned about Argento from watching "Phenomena" was that perhaps his biggest weakness is his clumsy story telling. Let me get to the point, hopefully quicker than "Phenomena".
-IF YOU WANT TO BE IMPORTANT, YOU HAVE TO LOOK IMPORTANT. Argento has a knack for making everything look so important that you are glued to the imagery on the screen. "Phenomena" is full of long, stylish, detailed, seemingly important scenes. Every scene has a sort of leisurely pace to it. I began to assume that if I didn't pay attention, I would miss something. Eventually, this became a chore. After about 70 minutes, there had been 4 fairly unremarkable murders and yet we were no closer to knowing who the killer was. When it was finally over, I scratched my head and thought, "Did I miss something?" So I watched it all again. It turned out that I hadn't missed a thing. Most of the movie was not nearly as important to the plot as its treatment would have you believe. The result was an overly arduous, not particularly meaningful journey for a brief and crazy end.
-SO, WHICH STORY DID YOU LIKE? Even though most of the movie was treated with overwrought and unwarranted importance, nothing that happened could be declared useless. But there were so many things that were given importance I wondered which thread of the story was the one that mattered most. How important was the generous time spent on the entomologist's theories? What role would the girl's talent with insects play? Why is the school so important? Does the hot but nasty teacher hold any significance? Was that time spent at the bank warranted? It turned out that all of the unique threads had very convoluted and somewhat ludicrous connection to how the film ended. I was forced to invest effort into all of the deceptive threads resulting in disappointment at their ultimate lack of importance. The worst part about it was that most of it wasn't particularly exciting or interesting.
-AT LEAST THE T-SHIRT IS OK. (Content could be interpreted as spoilers) So I went through all this effort on stuff that varied in importance because I couldn't be sure what really mattered. My reward for all of this was an ending that bordered on cheating. It turns out the murders were committed by someone we never met directly or were never given cause to suspect until they are revealed. You could not possibly have deduced who it was because no meaningful clues were ever presented. Luckily, the ending has enough wacked-out moments and lively pacing that at least some satisfaction is achieved. However, that's only when compared to the rest of the films slogging pace.
-JUST BE YOURSELF JENNIFER. Jennifer Connelly and Donald Pleasance are the big attraction here. Jennifer is very good at acting like Jennifer; a female Harrison Ford. Donald scrapped his usually wonderful British accent for a nearly undecipherable Scottish accent. There were other actors I won't mention though they were all capable for the most part. The chimp (Yes, the chimp) was actually an interesting figure whose function is clumsily jammed into place.
-SHE'S BRUSHING HER TEETH; CUE MOTORHEAD. The music was wildly varied in style from scene to scene and just as wildly inappropriate in its placement. We often get scenes of someone walking slowly with some crazy guitar rock grinding away in the background. I can't say this had a big impact on me because I had bigger problems than the music to worry about. It didn't help though.
-SAY IT ISN'T SO!! Some might be disappointed that there is no nudity and limited gore in this film. I don't mind those things but it wasn't a major sticking point with me in "Phenomena". I will say that a little more gore and nudity might have distracted me from the sluggish pace of the story. Yet, I think it would have had limited affect. Of course, the frenzied ending, which could be considered gratuitous, goes a long way to keep this from being a total loss.
-VENUS FLYTRAP. As I stated before, Argento has a talent for giving drama to the most mundane event. Up to now, I really do like the overall feel of his films. They have a very inviting visual style. However, the enticing visuals could not enhance the plodding story enough to keep me interested or entertained throughout. He almost fooled me into believing that what I was seeing was always important.
-THE FLY ON THE WALL. The fly on the wall knows the truth. In all honestly, I didn't like the way this story was played out. It was almost as if Argento had an ending in mind and then back-loaded the story to provide him all the pieces to construct his grand finale. The grand finale was pretty compelling but the back-loaded story was clumsy and those pieces didn't always fit too well. Why Jennifer's talent with bugs is important, why the chimp matters, why we spend so much time at school or in the bank and everything else was not nearly as important as the attention it was given. No matter how visually compelling things were, the events taking place just weren't that big a deal most of the time. Though Argento's talent is evident, the decent acting and visual aspects of this film were not enough to fix the convoluted story.
Douglas Ratcliff | Madison, WI United States | 11/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Phenomena hooked me right away, even the momentary twinge I felt when the monkey made its appearance (I hate monkeys, especially monkeys in "horror" movies) was short lived; this monkey is actually a device to move the plot along and never overstayed its welcome. The tension continues to build up, right up to the end, which was a nice surprise. Many elements from prior Argento films make appearances here and everything just works.Inferno is the third and final chapter of the Deep Red trilogy and the second and, so far, final chapter in the proposed Three Mothers trilogy. Inferno suffers from the "Jan Brady" syndrome. She is beautiful and accomplished in her own right, but she follows an even more beautiful and equally accomplished sister. It is easy to be so dazzled by Suspiria that Inferno is obscured in her shadow. But upon a second viewing, the scales fall and the ears become unplugged and Inferno proves to be her sisters equal. Its simply that Suspiria is a fairy-tale whereas Inferno is a symphony.Phenomena includes a trailer, a couple of music videos, the first of which is absolutely mesmerizing, and an interview.Inferno includes an introduction by Dario Argento, that unfortunately comes off as an apology, a trailer, and an interview segment.This gift set, in fact, all three volumes of the Dario Argento collection, represent a tremendous value. Just compare the price of buying these two DVD's separately. This is now the DVD's golden age. Enjoy it while it lasts."
F. Kostas | Hollywood, Fl | 08/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's been said that "Phenomena" is the movie Argento wanted to make with "Suspiria", the latter being cast with actresses well out of their teens. Here, much younger actresses are used, including Argento's own daughter, Fiore, who has the opening (amazing) death scene. Fourteen year old Jennifer Connelly is our lead, and Argento must have been quite taken with her, as she is lovingly framed and lighted in every scene. There are numerous similarities with "Suspiria". Just as Suzy is chastised for arriving at the European school from America late, so is Jennifer. The girls at this school are also odd, and while Suzy is drugged in "Suspiria", someone attempts to do the same with Jennifer.
The kills are stylish as ever, great lighting, camera work, cinematography, and a very interesting story. I think this is the first Argento where I cared about the characters-Those being Jennifer, and the Entomologist and his chimp. By the way, the Chimp has a really wrenching scene where she is desparately trying to get into the house while her master is being menaced by the killer. Many other noteworthy scenes include Jennifer sleepwalking, Jennifer summoning insects to her aid in the school, and the reveal of the killer. The soundtrack by Goblin is incredible per usual, and I didn't mind the heavy Metal music used as well. Some weird stuff, some gross stuff, and Argento's most gorgeous heroine to date. I am amazed to find I like this even better than Suspiria. If you are just getting into Argento, or thinking of, this is a great movie to try. I absolutely adore this film. Oh, and in the cab ride to the school, (You knew there would be a cab ride, right?) Daria Nicolodi's character tells Jennifer, "They call this area the Swiss Transylvania, you know." Jennifer: "Really? Why?" Daria: "I don't know, they just do." I love the randomness of the Argento dialogue!"