The works of Italian director Dario Argento feature prominently in my top ten horror flicks, because with Tenebrae, Suspira and Phenomena he really appeals to my internal, and occasionally external horror nerd. His ability to make violence look like a beautiful choreographed dance has always amazed me, though in his more recent films, he seems to have lost it.
|Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi
Screenplay: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) is a young girl who starts at a Swiss boarding school in a town where several murders have taken place. The investigators have employed a local Entomologist Professor, John McGregor (Donald Pleasance), who is assisting them with his knowledge of the time of death on the victims using the lifespan of the various bugs that consume rotting flesh. Jennifer, as it turns out, is quite special and has the uncanny ability to communicate with insects, and this gift may be able to help the investigation move forward. Her power though puts the investigation closer to the murderer, and puts her at great peril.
As the synopsis would suggest, Phenomena falls among Argento's supernatural work, like Suspiria or Inferno but with elements of his giallo, like Tenebrae or Sleepless.
In this picture, Argento has created a bizarre world with quite possibly the most unusual plot within his output, which features bugs, serial killers, a chimp and a mutant just for good measure. The locations and camerawork are wonderful to watch. The treatment that Arrow have given the film really shows just how beautiful the camerawork is as the presentation is crisp and pure. There are some stunning tracking shots, and the opening exterior shot (you know the film, of the girl missing the bus) is just perfect. That's not to say the interiors are INferior, as they too, look magnificent. When Argento gets to stage a scene how he wants to see it, he really is at his best.
The cinematography is typically excellent Argento, but what is a surprise is the quality of the performances he gets from the actors, which has occasionally been his downfall. The acting in Phenomena is mostly of a particularly high standard, with Connelly, Pleasance and regular player Daria Niccolodi being the stand-outs. Actually, Connelly needs to be commended in particular as Argento really puts her through her paces as an actress and as a performer, with some physical work that most actors would flatly refuse.
The soundtrack is another high point. Goblin are on top of their game with this film, and the addition of other artists makes for a great audio experience.Phenomena is a brilliant piece of, not just Italian cinema, but of cinema in general, and I simply can't recommend it enough. Not having this in your collection is a crime worthy of having your head pushed through a glass window.