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Italian theatrical release poster by Enzo Sciotti
|Directed by||Dario Argento|
|Produced by||Angelo Jacono
|Written by||Dario Argento
Dalila Di Lazzaro
|Edited by||Franco Fraticelli|
New Line Cinema (USA, theatrical)
Anchor Bay Entertainment (USA, DVD)
|January 31, 1985 (Italy) August 2, 1985 (USA)|
|US Theatrical version:
Original Italian version:
Phenomena is a 1985 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento and starring Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, and Donald Pleasence. Its plot focuses on a girl at a remote Swiss boarding school who discovers she has psychic powers that allow her to communicate with insects and uses them to pursue a serial killer who is butchering young women at and around the school.
After its release in Italy, Phenomena was purchased for distribution in the United States by New Line Cinema, who cut over twenty minutes and released it under the title Creepers. The film features a score by regular Argento collaborators Goblin and Simon Boswell, as well as a multitude of heavy metal songs on its soundtrack. The film inspired much of the Japanese horror video game Clock Tower.
After missing a bus in the Swiss countryside, a tourist, Vera Brandt (Fiore Argento), tries looking for help. She comes across a home and, upon entering, she is attacked by an unknown stranger, who proceeds to chase and behead her.
Eight months later, Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), arrives at the Swiss Richard Wagner Academy for Girls, chaperoned by Frau Brückner (Daria Nicolodi), who places her with roommate Sophie (Federica Mastroianni). While sleepwalking through the academy and out onto the roof, Jennifer witnesses a student being murdered. She awakens and falls, fleeing and eventually becoming lost in the woods. Forensic entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasence)'s chimpanzee attendant Inga (Tanga) finds her and leads her to him. Witnessing her apparent interaction with his insects, McGregor comes to believe she has a special gift for telepathy with them. Inspector Rudolf Geiger (Patrick Bauchau) is on the case alongside McGregor. Back at the academy, the headmistress has Jennifer medically tested via EEG for her sleepwalking. The procedure makes Jennifer uneasy when she gets brief visions of the previous night's events. The headmistress has Sophie look after Jennifer in case she sleepwalks again.
Following an illicit tryst the same night, Sophie is murdered. Jennifer sleepwalks again. When she goes outside, a firefly leads her to a maggot-infested glove. The next day, she shows this to McGregor, who identifies the maggots as Great Sarcophagus flies, which are drawn to decaying human flesh. He theorises that the larvae's presence on the glove indicates that the killer has been keeping his victims close to him post-mortem, unintentionally collecting the larvae on himself whilst physically interacting with the victims. This indicates that they are dealing with a psychopath.
Later at the academy, when the other students taunt Jennifer for her connection to insects, she summons a swarm of flies which covers the entire building, then faints. Convinced that Jennifer is "diabolic" and possibly responsible for the killings, the headmistress arranges for her to be transferred to a mental hospital for the criminally insane. However, Jennifer flees to McGregor's home in time to evade the transfer.
McGregor gives Jennifer a glass case with a Great Sarcophagus fly and suggests she use it to track the murderer. When the fly leads her to the same house that Vera had found earlier, Jennifer is told to leave when the real estate agent catches her, assuming her to be a thief. Geiger arrives and gets some information from the agent before leaving.
Later that night, McGregor is murdered in his home after Inga is distracted and locked outside. With nowhere left to go, Jennifer calls her father's lawyer Morris Shapiro (Mario Donatone) for help. He alerts Brückner, who finds Jennifer and offers to let the girl stay at her house overnight. Once there, Brückner advises Jennifer to take some pills before she goes to bed; when Jennifer does so, she becomes sick, assuming that the pills were poisonous and coughs them up. After leaving the bathroom, she attempts to call Morris but is knocked unconscious with a piece of wood by Brückner, who incarcerates her in the house. Geiger arrives at the house and is attacked by Brückner.
After coming to a brief time later, Jennifer engineers her escape through a large hole in the floor that leads through a tunnel to a dungeon and into a basement. She falls in a pool infested with maggots and dead bodies. Geiger is in the room, above Jennifer, struggling to free himself from chains attached to his wrists. Brückner appears and taunts Jennifer, but Geiger frees himself from the chains and holds Brückner just long enough to let Jennifer escape.
Following her escape from the pool, she passes a room from which she hears sobbing. There she finds Brückner's son (Davide Marotta), who has a hideously deformed face; the result of a rape. He chases Jennifer onto a motorboat and tries to kill her, but she summons a swarm of flies that attack him, causing him to fall into the water. Jennifer is forced to jump into the water as the motorboat explodes, whereupon the child grabs her. Rising into the flaming waters, he is eventually killed. Jennifer reaches the shore just as Morris appears. Brückner reappears and decapitates him. She then leans over Jennifer threatening her with the same fate before confessing that she murdered McGregor and Geiger out of fear that harm would have befallen her son. Suddenly, Inga attacks Brückner and kills her with a razor.
With the ordeal over, Jennifer and the chimp embrace.
- Jennifer Connelly as Jennifer Corvino
- Daria Nicolodi as Frau Brückner
- Dalila Di Lazzaro as Headmistress
- Patrick Bauchau as Inspector Rudolf Geiger
- Donald Pleasence as Professor John McGregor
- Fiore Argento as Vera Brandt
- Federica Mastroianni as Sophie
- Fiorenza Tessari as Gisela Sulzer
- Mario Donatone as Morris Shapiro
- Francesca Ottaviani as Nurse
- Michele Soavi as Kurt, Geiger's assistant
- Franco Trevisi as Real Estate Agent
- Davide Marotta as Frau Brückner's son
For its U.S. release, Phenomena was retitled Creepers by New Line Cinema, heavily edited to remove nearly thirty minutes of footage, and went to U.S. theaters and drive-ins in August 1985. The murder sequences were shortened by several seconds to remove gore. A sequence where the second victim is spotted and chased by the killer was removed. Two lengthy scenes (which make up the bulk of the missing footage) involving Jennifer Connelly's character telling her roommate about how her mother abandoned the family on Christmas Day (as Argento's own mother had done) and her character receiving a brain scan after the second murder were removed for the purposes of speeding up the flow.
The film was a box office hit in Italy, gaining 515,034 admissions, and grossed €203,657 in Spain.
Anchor Bay released the film to DVD in 1999, restoring the proper title and all missing scenes from the original US release. The original cut (or Integral cut) is available in Europe on Region 2 DVD. The Integral cut (or Integral Hard, as it is known in Japan) never existed in English but only in the dubbed Italian version and adds only a few seconds of cut footage to some scenes, mostly of B-roll material.
On March 7, 2011, The full 116 version of Phenomena was released on Blu-ray in the UK, by film company Arrow, with many special features on the disc, such as "The Making of Phenomena" and interviews with the director and cast, excluding Jennifer Connelly.
The film's soundtrack features original music by Goblin and Simon Boswell, providing some of his earliest film scoring work. "Flash Of The Blade" by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden was used multiple times, as well "Locomotive" by Motörhead. Bill Wyman and Andi Sexgang are also featured. The solo soprano voice in the theme song "Phenomena" as well as in "Jennifer's Friends" and "The Wind" is Pina Magri.
There have been several soundtrack albums released with different track listings. These include tracks unrelated to the film, such as "Transmutate" and a song by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. "Valley Bolero," a Bill Wyman cue that appears when Sophie is killed, has not been released on any version. The film used two cues from Dawn of the Dead during television broadcasts.
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