For as well versed as I consider myself to be in horror films, I am still sometimes surprised by the number of 80’s and 90’s “classic” horror films that I have not seen. I stress the word “classic” because this is an obviously debatable subject. But by my definition, these are films that are prominent in most horror-lovers canons.
One such film is the subject of today’s review: Dario Argento’s PHENOMENA. Also known (primarily in the U.S.) as CREEPERS, this is a film that I’ve heard talked about for many, many years, but only recently gotten the opportunity to watch. And thanks to the fine folks at Synapse and CAV, I got to watch it in style. Their Blu-ray version of this film contains three different cuts of the film, and despite the fact they’re not much different from each other, they all look and sound great. If you’re a fan of Argento or 80’s horror, you’ll definitely want to add PHENOMENA to your library.
If you are not familiar with PHENOMENA, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Synapse Films & CAV Distribution:
The young Jennifer Corvino (played by Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly, in one of her first film roles) is sent to a private Swiss academy for girls where a vicious killer is on the loose, brutally murdering students. Jennifer is a “gifted” girl with the strange ability to communicate with insects, and Dr. McGregor (Donald Pleasence, John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN series, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK) enlists her to help locate the killer. Jennifer finds herself in a bizarre murder plot with maggots, mutants, and razor-wielding chimpanzee mayhem! Can she uncover the killer’s identity before becoming a victim herself? Daria Nicolodi (TENEBRAE) and Fiore Argento (DEMONS) also star in this strange, unique and gory film from Italy’s Master of Horror, Dario Argento. PHENOMENA also features fantastic soundtrack music from progressive-rock favorite Goblin, British Heavy Metal masters Motörhead & Iron Maiden, Andi Sex Gang, Bill Wyman and Simon Boswell!
Synapse Films is proud to present Dario Argento’s PHENOMENA on a 2-disc Blu-ray containing THREE different cuts of the film re-mastered in stunning high-definition.
All three versions of the film are shot well and look great, particularly thanks to the HD transfer. I only recall one grainy scene, which can be found early in the movie, when a young girl falls into a window in slow motion. This scene is dark, which could be the cause for the graininess, but it’s certainly not a huge detractor.
The acting in the film is great, with a young Jennifer Connelly headlining the cast. Connelly was about 15 years-old when she made this, but you can see the budding young talent even back then. She is joined by Donald Pleasence, who is always a pleasure to see onscreen. The rest of the cast does a great job as well, however these two are the only noteworthy names.
The special effects in PHENOMENA are typical Argento fare: some are great and some are slightly corny. But regardless, you can’t deny they are effective. I particularly like the insect swarming effects. I read how these were accomplished (look it up), and I’m impressed with the ingenuity of the special effects time.
To top everything off, the film boasts an excellent soundtrack that includes heavy metal music from Iron Maiden and Motorhead, as well as synth-tracks from Goblin. The music really helps set the tone for the film, and it helps add a nice dose of tension as well.
PHENOMENA is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. In addition to the HD picture and remastered sound, the Blu-ray boasts some cool special features, such as:
• THREE different cuts of PHENOMENA, all available in high-definition for the first time ever in one collector’s edition package!
• Audio Commentary Track on PHENOMENA (110 Version) from Argento scholar and author, Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio/television commentator, David Del Valle
• Two completely different sound mix options on PHENOMENA (110 Minute Version), including the original 2.0 stereo mix, along with a rare alternate mix containing different sound effects and music cues
• English/Italian Hybrid Audio and Complete Italian Audio Options for PHENOMENA (116 Minute Version)
• DARIO ARGENTO’S WORLD OF HORROR Documentary. A fascinating look at the early films of director Dario Argento, including PHENOMENA, SUSPIRIA, DEMONS, DAWN OF THE DEAD, INFERNO and many more! Containing candid interviews and awesome behind-the-scenes footage, DARIO ARGENTO’S WORLD OF HORROR gives us a look into the mind of Italy’s Master of Horror and is an essential viewing experience for all Argento fans.
• Interview with Andi Sex Gang
• PHENOMENA International Theatrical Trailer
• CREEPERS U.S. Theatrical Trailer & Radio Spots
• Optional English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard for Hearing on PHENOMENA (110 Minute Version)and CREEPERS Version)
• Multiple optional subtitle selections on PHENOMENA (116 Minute Version), including one for just the foreign English language segments of the hybrid version, complete English subtitles for the entire feature, and complete English subtitles for the Italian version of the film.
PHENOMENA is available now.