Today: February 29, 2024

Phenomena DVD? BR

Garish and gruesome horror
thriller from the master of crazy Dario Argento.

Dario Argento is a force like no other in
cinematic terms. The rules that apply to
most filmmakers are not only broken, but bent and chewed out with such contempt
by Argento that he is the quintessential Marmite director, you either love him
or you hate him
. Phenomena is quite possible his most bizarre incarnation,
in terms of plot, but he narrowly reigns in some of his more eccentric traits.
Those hoping for endless colour-filtered lighting will be disappointed but if
you are looking for over the top, bonkers story line then you are in for a
treat.

Arriving
at a new school, in the Swiss mountains, Jennifer (Connelly) discovers that a vicious killer stalks the area.
Sleepwalking one night Jennifer stumbles upon wheelchair bound entomologist
Professor McGregor (Pleasence) and
his assistant monkey, who realises that Jennifer has a unique telepathic
connection to insects. Utilising this ability Jennifer sets out to hunt down
the killer with the help of her six legged friends.

With
its high concept and utterly over the top dialogue Phenomena could easily be
viewed as nonsense. However, there is a delightful guilty pleasure to be had in
its execution. Reading like a dark fairy
tale come dream gives it an esoteric quality
. It feels like a nightmare
come to life wherein one plot line can morph into something altogether
different from what it originally set out to be.

While
it is a step away, albeit a small one, from Argento’s previous giallo horrors,
Phenomena still holds many of his trademark staples. Endless point-of-view
shots, electric pop come metal soundtrack and constant smashing of windows
marks Phenomena out as typical Argento. Furthermore,
the gore count is definitely up with close-ups of scissors going through hands
and, in one particular gruesome scene, Jennifer falling into a pool of rotting
corpses
.

In
her namesake role Jennifer Connelly, just off the back of another Italian maestro’s
opus in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America (1984) and before she danced
around with Muppets and David Bowie in Labyrinth (1986), is perfectly cast as
the virginal Jennifer. Looking like a
perfectly crafted porcelain doll she is able to convey the innocence while
never allowing the clunky script to bog her down. There is an ethereal quality
to her that cements the film in it’s hallucinatory ways
.

Rightfully
taking its place in the Argento cannon of cult Phenomena is less its namesake
but utterly captivating. Perhaps one for
the connoisseur more than the casual viewer Phenomena certainly conjures a
captivating tale
.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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