Film Review: Phenomena (1985)

Also known as: Creepers (initial USA release)
Release Date: January 31st, 1985 (Italy)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Music by: Goblin, Simon Boswell
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Donald Pleasence, Patrick Bauchau

Titanus, New Line Cinema, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 115 Minutes (Italy), 82 Minutes (USA)


Phenomena is a semi-English language Italian horror film from Dario Argento. If you have ever seen his most well-known film Suspiria, then you can understand the bizarre visual ride of dread that this film is.

It stars a 15 year-old Jennifer Connelly and Donald Pleasence. There is also a monkey, who is the caretaker of Pleasence’s character. The rest of the actors are mostly Italian and have their lines dubbed, which is typical of many of Argento’s films and just adds more bizarreness to the overall vibe of things.

The film follows an American girl sent off to a foreign school (similar setup to Suspiria). She sleepwalks and sees things psychically, she is also able to control bugs. There are strange murders happening nearby and the girl gets mixed up in trying to solve the crime with help from an old crippled bug scientist and his monkey nurse. Yes, it sounds incredibly insane and it is. But that monkey is one of the most tragic characters ever in film – more so than any human in the movie, even with the sweet Connelly winning you over immediately.

If you are a fan of Argento’s work and haven’t seen this, you need to. I hold it in the same regard as Suspiria. It is a beautiful film to look at, even at its most grotesque. Like other Argento films, this plays like a horror fantasy and there is a beauty about the surrealistic essence of this movie. It is an art film without intending to be an art film but that is sort of the Italian horror style.

It doesn’t use a diverse and vibrant color palate like Suspiria or its sequel Inferno but it is still colorful – mostly with rich blue hues. Even during the day, the film feels like night.

The soundtrack is just as bizarre as the movie and immediately feels like it is in conflict with it when you hear Iron Maiden blaring in this artful Italian picture. Then as the film unfolds, the music adds something more to it. It becomes a weird companion that pushes the surreal effect even further.

Phenomena may not be as good as Suspiria but it is still a damned good Argento flick. It is a giallo classic, as far as I am concerned. Even if no one really knows about it.

Rating: 8.75/10