Phenomena (1985)
January 11, 2024 12:20 PM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] Jennifer (Jennifer Connelly), a young girl with an amazing ability to communicate with insects, is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.

Also starring Daria Nicolodi, Fiore Argento, Federica Mastroianni, Fiorenza Tessari, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Patrick Bauchau, Donald Pleasence.

Directed and produced by Dario Argento. Written by Franco Ferrini, Dario Argento. Cinematography by Romano Albani. Edited by Franco Fraticelli. Music by Goblin.

74% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Widley available streaming in the US. JustWatch.
posted by DirtyOldTown (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, this is bonkers. But it's Argento, so it's mostly riveting and stylish, even when it's stupid.

The shoehorning in of hair metal is super weird.

Connelly makes fun of this movie when she speaks of it now. I don't blame her for having bad feelings, as the chimp they hired was in heat and they regularly asked Connelly to put her arm on the chimp and turn her to make the animal's puffy red posterior less obvious. The chimp finally snapped and attacked her for it. Odd that Connelly doesn't seem to be aware this is a beloved film by an acclaimed director and not just like, the insane Italian movie she made one time as a kid.

I watched the restored 4k version on UHD/Blu-Ray and it was as lovingly and precisely restored as any film you could see. Sincerely. Like, the restoration of Lawrence of Arabia *maybe* got this much careful attention.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:22 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


I love this film because it's kind of a weird post-giallo bit of madcappery, where almost every scene ramps up the utter insanity. The opening pitch is that Jennifer talks to bugs to solve murders - that's just the STARTING point. The soundtrack beats ass - the score is by Goblin because of course, but also features cuts from Iron Maiden and Motorhead just to flex (and also grant a much higher sense of energy to minutes-long scenes of Jennifer slowly walking around). The final scene had me literally say 'HOLY SHIT' out loud, in the best use of Chekov's Chimp ever committed to film. It is also endlessly quotable in how completely straightfaced it is in pitching lines like "It's perfectly normal for insects to be slightly telepathic".

ALSO ALSO WIK: If you look in the costuming for this film, a few small details stand out - the jacket Jennifer gets that has a weird rhinestone Iron Cross on it, and a schoolmates shirt that can be briefly seen with the words ATOMWAFFEN - with a little digging I found that it's a shirt protesting the German development of Atomic Weapons, because in a bit of worldbuilding that is never actually discussed once in the film, Argento mentions in an interview that this all takes place in a world where the Nazis won WWII. Why? Because it's even more bonkers, that's why.
posted by FatherDagon at 4:34 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]

shoehorning in of hair metal is super weird.

Said no one ever about Phenomena. And also it came out in 1985. My hot take? Argento's last great film (I watched his Dracula last year as part of a Letterboxd challenge - it was poor).

Incidentally, what versions are people watching? I believe the official full length is 116 minutes but it has had a lot of versions over the years. I'm a bit out of the loop what versions are the standard now but back in the day this one was available in North America only in an 82 minute largely incomprehensible version, the UK version had some of the gore cut, the Italian version was uncut. One of the DVD releases (Anchor bay maybe?) is missing a scene (at the request of the director), the German DVD release has some violence cut... etc.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:18 PM on January 11

The version up on Kanopy right now is an hour 55, so I'm guessing that's more or less complete. The Creepers DVD I used to see bouncing around bargain bins is the 82-minute one, and I can't imagine how it could hang together.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:53 PM on January 11

The 116 minute Italian version is superior. The 82 minutes version is incoherent but... I kind of like it. But it was the first one I watched circa the late 80s VHS.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:59 PM on January 11

I will watch any movie with a laser-guided chimpanzee in it, and will probably enjoy it. I very much enjoyed Phenomena.
posted by Gelatin at 7:53 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

At least three times while I was watching this:

Partner: Whatcha watchin'?
Me: [sighing] Phenomena
Partner: Doot-DOO-doo-doo-doo! PHENOMENA! Doot-doo-doot-doo!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:50 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]

Wacky film. With an unspeakably beautiful leading actress.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:14 PM on January 14

This is one of the many wonderful movies I ended up discovering courtesy of my teenage insomnia. My very first Argento.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:47 PM on January 14

« Older Movie: 30 Days of Night...   |  Movie: Alien vs. Predator... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments