Phenomena (AKA Creepers in the US) is a 1985 Giallo film directed by none other than Dario Argento. Starring the iconic Jennifer Connelly as ‘Jennifer’, Dario Nicodi and the legendary Donald Pleasence, Phenomena focuses on a girl at a remote Swiss boarding school (what is Argento’s obsession with women at remote private schools? Maybe we’ll never know) who discovers she has psychic powers that allow her to communicate with insects and uses them to purse a serial killer butchering young women in and around the school.
Unfortunately American distributors chopped about 30 minutes and added some music by Iron Maiden for no reason to the CREEPERS version, making for a confusing but, still near perfect Giallo (make sure to watch the “Integral Cut”, which restores the film to Argento’s original vision): There’s sleepwalking, unsafe buildings anyone can just wander into, a VERY late plot twist involving an insane asylum, an over the top madwoman and more maggots than you ever dreamed possible…. Oh yeah, there’s also a monkey! You haven’t lost your mind reading this article it’s just Dario Argento’s incredible 1985 Phenonema. There are some excellent set pieces, including one scene where Jennifer summons the help of flies to defend her from bullies, as well the usual Giallo stapes of sudden, violent deaths with bright red blood and rolling heads. But Phenomena is soaked less with atmosphere than some of Argento’s more popular films – there is the play of light and dark, but none of the flights of colour and fantasy that come into movies like Tenebrae or Inferno.
While Suspiria and Deep Red are considered works of art, Phenonema feels like a more personal project from Argento, almost as if he’s dropped any pretence of what’s expected from him and is simply doing whatever the hell he wants. Phenonema is like a dreamy walk through haunted house that keeps you guessing, and then all of a sudden shocks the living hell out of you. You know it’s coming but it’s still a stomach-churning and mind bending experience. Phonomena is streaming now on Shudder, and available on an amazing 4K Blu Ray restoration from Arrow Films.