giallo

Shaun vs. Phenomena (1985)

phen1A girl with a unique ability to speak with insects becomes the next target of a brutal killer who has murdered several female students at the school she has just begun attending.  What’s a young girl to do?



Judging a Book by its Cover

phen1

 

 

-Is this an international version of Labyrinth?

 

-I don’t know what Jennifer Connelly and the butterfly did, but Raiden is pissed.

 

-While I don’t mind the subtlety of this poster, I much prefer the American release’s poster instead.

 

 

 


It will make your skin crawl!

Directed by Dario Argento

Starring Jennifer Connelly (Labyrinth, Dark City), Donald Pleasance (Halloween series) and Daria Nicolodi (Suspiria, Deep Red)

A young Jennifer Connelly, less than a year from her career-launching role in Labyrinth, plays young … Jennifer, arriving in Switzerland on her way to one of the top girls’ schools in the world.  Initially looked up to by all the girls due to being the daughter of a famous film actor, she quickly becomes an outcast to most of them because of her “peculiarities” that manifest rather quickly, including talking to insects and sleepwalking.

phen4

It’s always windy wherever she goes.

The sleepwalking actually gets Jennifer into major trouble when it causes her to stumble upon the brutal murder of her roommate who snuck out earlier to meet someone.  Jennifer awakens lost in the nearby woods, only to be helped by a chimpanzee on the loose who brings her to the house of John McGregor, the chimp’s master and a forensic entomologist who has been helping the police with the recent slayings.  McGregor has a personal interest in the case as a young female student who was helping him was murdered months ago and takes a liking to Jennifer because of her gift.

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My name is Inga Monkeytoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!

Running away from the school after unending taunting from the schoolgirls as well as the head mistress trying to get her sent to a mental hospital thinking Jennifer is actually killing the girls, Jennifer runs off to McGregor’s house for safety.  He engages Jennifer to help him find the killer using her special power to communicate with insects.  Realizing the killer keeps his victims in close proximity for some time after death, he gives Jennifer a particular fly that is attracted to the smell of dead bodies.  Is this how you make friends, man?  While not well thought out, this puts her in the direct path of the killer and a truly shocking conclusion.

phen6

What a lovely singing voice she must have.

Those looking for some bloody good violence from Argento will come to find several shocking moments throughout Phenomena.  Forgoing the generic knife as the killing tool, the killer’s main weapon is a lance used to stab victims and there’s no kidding around.  The blade through the mouth scene always shocks me when I watch it.  There are a several decapitations, slashes to the face with a blade, gross scissor attacks and I didn’t even get into the pool of disgusting body parts yet.  Bleh!

phen2

Just….no.

From the opening chase to the gory climax and all of the unique animal/insect shenanigans and wonderful soundtrack played in between, Phenomena ranks among my favourite of Argento’s work.  While I’ve found giallos to typically be over-the-top thrillers with slasher-style violence, Argento adds several new elements to really separate this film from the usual bunch.  Some may balk and laugh at the ‘talking to insects’ plot device as well as having a chimpanzee as a side character, however these scenes are never treated as comedy and eventually come into play near the end of the film and well worth watching.

phen3

Oh Jesus, no!

TL;DR

Story: 8 – Jennifer Connelly talks to insects and helps bug Dr. Loomis in bringing the killer to justice.

Blood: 8 – Those looking for the goods will be happy with what they get in this film.

Nudity: 0 – Nada.

Overall: 8 – It’s everything you’d expect from an Argento film with stylish production, a great soundtrack, gory kills and a fresh take on the usual giallo.

Trivia

-That damned dirty ape chimpanzee bit off the tip of one of Jennifer Connelly’s fingers and she had to be taken to the hospital to get it reattached.

Phenomena was released in North America as Creepers with around thirty minutes of footage cut from the film.

-A sequel almost went into production in 2001.

phenfeature

Seriously, no!

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