Phenomena (film)

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Phenomena
Phenomena-poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Enzo Sciotti[1]
Directed byDario Argento
Produced byDario Argento[2]
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Franco Ferrini
  • Dario Argento[2]
Starring
CinematographyRomano Albani[2]
Edited byFranco Fraticelli[2]
Production
company
DAC Film[2]
Distributed byTitanus[3]
Release date
  • 31 January 1985 (1985-01-31) (Italy)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryItaly

Phenomena is a 1985 Italian horror giallo 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.

Plot[edit]

After missing a bus in the Swiss countryside, a tourist, Vera Brandt, tries looking for help. She comes across a home and, upon entering, she is attacked by a stranger, who proceeds to chase and behead her.

Eight months later, Jennifer Corvino arrives at the Swiss Richard Wagner Academy for Girls, chaperoned by Frau Brückner, who places her with roommate Sophie. 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's chimpanzee, Inga, 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 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, and so she leaves. Jennifer then asks Sophie to look out for her in case she sleepwalks again.

Following a 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 it 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 that 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 for help. He alerts Brückner, who finds Jennifer and offers to let the girl stay at her house overnight. Once there, Brückner insists that Jennifer take some pills before she goes to bed; when Jennifer does so, she becomes sick and assuming that the pills were poisonous, 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. There, 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, 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 as Jennifer screams in horror. 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.

Cast[edit]

  • 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

Analysis[edit]

Physician and scholar J.L. McDaniel views Phenomena as a critique on traditional understandings of disability, noting that its characters "attempt to classify Jennifer; scientists seek to diagnose her "affliction" through the medical model of disability, while Jennifer's schoolmistresses interpret Jennifer's behavior as a disciplinary problem based in environmental factors."[4] McDaniel interprets this as representative of the "structural model of disability, but in each instance, the attempt to classify Jennifer fails to diagnose or discipline the supposed "deviant, disabled body." Through this failure, the film dramatizes contemporary critiques of traditional models that examine disability."[4]

Release[edit]

Phenomena was released theatrically in Italy on 31 January 1985 with a 116-minute running time.[5] This version of Phenomena is often referred to as the "integral cut".[5] A shorter version of the film was prepared for international release that had a 110-minute running time.[5] This version of the film only cuts out minor material from the "integral cut" with most being a few frames at the end and beginning of shots.[5] When the film was released theatrically in the United States, it was re-titled Creepers and was cut to 83 minutes with scenes cut entirely and other scenes being re-ordered.[5] Creepers also had music segue between scenes where previously they had no music and the loss of the song "Locomotive" by Motörhead.[5] Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films described Creepers as being the last of Argento's films to receive "any kind of meaningful theatrical release" in the United States.[6]

Home video[edit]

Creepers was released in the United States on VHS and Betamax in 1986 by Media Home Entertainment.[7] This release still had the shorter theatrical run time.[8] By March 29, Creepers entered Billboard's Top Videocassettes Rentals chart. This chart was compiled from a national sample of retail store rental reports.[9] By April 5, the release was at number 29 in the charts.[10]

The film was first released on DVD in North America by Anchor Bay Entertainment as Phenomena, where it used the 110 minute version of the film.[5] Synapse Films released the film on Blu-ray in the United States on 15 November 2016, which included the shorter version titled Creepers as well as the 116 and 110 minute versions of Phenomena.[11][12] Arrow Video released Phenomena in the United Kingdom in 2017 including the integral version, the international cut and Creepers. Arrow's Blu-ray was among the top ten top-selling home video releases in the United Kingdom on its initial release.[13]

Soundtrack[edit]

Unlike Argento's previous films, Phenomena adopts a mid-1980s trend of containing popular songs in the soundtrack.[14] This includes original compositions from artists such as Bill Wyman and Claudio Simonetti as well as heavy metal music by artists like Iron Maiden.[14] The band Goblin is credited as contributing to the score, but this is limited to two cues from their score from Dawn of the Dead, which are faintly heard when the character Sophie watches television in the film.[6]

Cinevox released the soundtrack to the film in 1985 on vinyl, which included parts of the film's score and the rock music tracks.[15] This album was re-issued on compact disc in 1987.[16] The film's score with unused and unreleased tracks was released by Cinevox in 1997 on compact disc.[17] The film score was remastered and reissued in 2007.[18]

Reception[edit]

From contemporary reviews, Jon Pareles (New York Times) reviewed the Creepers cut of the film, finding that the film "creaks along for its first hour or so, failing to work up any chills" and found the acting in the film poor, noting that "The best acting is by an expressive, resourceful chimpanzee - definitely the year's Best Supporting Primate."[19] Kim Newman (Monthly Film Bulletin) noted the film contained "astonishingly awful performances" and that the dialogue contained several unintentionally humorous lines, which Newman attributed to a language problem.[20] Newman discussed the film's look and style, opining that "Argento's films have their stylishness to fall back on, but here he is experimenting with a washed-out blue look influenced by Possession that works in short scenes but becomes wearying after a few minutes".[20] Newman commented that Argento "goes for sickness after the manner of Lucio Fulci", noting gross-out scenes involving vomiting and violent deaths of actors portrayed by Argento's daughter and wife.[20] The Guardian declared that Creepers was "Argento at his most throw away" and that film paled in comparison to earlier efforts such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage or Suspiria.[21] Commenting on the acting, the review stated that "Pleasence does his best with the script, Jennifer Connelly doesn't even bother to do battle".[21] The Times found that the film contained traces of previous Argento films, "But the march of time and commercial success seem to have dulled the director's previous panache: Creepers just drags its feet from one absurdity to the next."[22] The Sunday Times found Creepers "only intermittently frightening" and an audience with "a taste for discreetly revealed schoolgirl thigh and/or insects will not be completely disappointed".[23]

In retrospective reviews, John Kenneth Muir discussed the film in his overview of horror films from the 1980s, finding Phenomena to be "unusual" as well as "strangely stirring", and that the imagery in the film is "nothing short of amazing, even if the narrative is muddled."[24]

Legacy[edit]

Japanese video game developer Hifumi Kono created his video game Clock Tower (1995) which borrows many ideas from Phenomena.[25][26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Creepers Italian 2p '85 Dario Argento's Phenomena, best art of Jennifer Connelly by Sciotti". www.emovieposter.com. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Cast and Crew". Dario Argento's Phenomena (book). Arrow Video. 2017. p. 3. FCD1507.
  3. ^ "Phenomena (1985)" (in Italian). Archivo del cinema Italiano. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b McDaniel, Jamie L. (December 2013). "Disability and deviance: Dario Argento's Phenomena and the maintenance of abledness as a critical framework". Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. Abstract summary. 37 (4): 625–637. doi:10.1007/s11013-013-9345-8. PMID 24141903.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "About the Versions". Dario Argento's Phenomena (book). Arrow Video. 2017. p. 55. FCD1507.
  6. ^ a b Howarth 2015, p. 122.
  7. ^ "New Releases". Billboard. Vol. 98 no. 7. 15 February 1986. p. 28. ISSN 0006-2510.
  8. ^ Stine 2003, p. 228.
  9. ^ "Top Videocassettes Rentals". Billboard. Vol. 98 no. 13. 29 March 1986. p. 48. ISSN 0006-2510.
  10. ^ "Top Videocassettes Rentals". Billboard. Vol. 98 no. 14. 5 April 1986. p. 46. ISSN 0006-2510.
  11. ^ Gingold, Michael (6 October 2016). "Dario Argento's Phenomena coming on Synapse Steelbook Blu-ray: Full info/art". Rue Morgue. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Phenomena (Synapse Films Limited Edition Steelbook(R)) is now available for pre-order!". Synapse Films. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Official Blu-Ray Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  14. ^ a b Howarth 2015, p. 121.
  15. ^ "Phenomena". Cinevox. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Phenomena". Cinevox. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  17. ^ "Phenomena". Cinevox. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  18. ^ "Phenomena". Cinevox. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  19. ^ Pareles, Jon (August 31, 1985). "The Screen: Horror Tale, 'Creepers'". New York Times. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  20. ^ a b c Newman, Kim (1986). "Phenomena (Creepers)". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 53 no. 624. p. 152.
  21. ^ a b Malcolm, Derek (17 April 1986). "A Fistful of Blood and Goo". The Guardian. p. 13.
  22. ^ Brown, Geoff (18 April 1986). "Cinema: Russians pulling their own legs; Review of recent films". The Times. Retrieved 8 June 2017. (Subscription required (help)).
  23. ^ Hislop, Andrew (20 April 1986). "Film Review: Sleaze and salsa on the Lower East Side". Sunday Times. Retrieved 7 June 2017. (Subscription required (help)).
  24. ^ Muir 2012, p. 432.
  25. ^ Pinsof, Allistair (20 October 2011). "It Came from Japan! Clock Tower". Destructoid. Archived from the original on 2 July 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  26. ^ McWhertor, Michael (2 March 2016). "Clock Tower spiritual successor NightCry coming to PC this spring". Retrieved 9 June 2017.

Sources[edit]

  • Howarth, Troy (2015). So Deadly, So Perverse. 2. Midnight Marquee Press. ISBN 978-1936168583.
  • Muir, John Kenneth (2012). Horror Films of the 1980s. McFarland. ISBN 978-0786455010.
  • Stine, Scott Aaron (2003). The Gorehound's Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476611327.

External links[edit]