Sunday, 31 January 2016

PHENOMENA (1985)

While searching for something to watch on Amazon Prime I came across this film, it came out a year before “Labyrinth” and was Jennifer Connelly's first starring role. Directed by Dario Argento and co starring Donald Pleasence this all sounded very intriguing and I had never seen or heard of this film so I pressed play.

What I found was a classic Argento film.

I have written this blog 5 times over the past 3 days and each time I have tried to complete it the blog vanishes from the internet even though the site says it has saved it. It has lied to me. However, enough with my frustration, I will continue and hopefully complete this review once and for all.

The film starts with a young girl missing the bus in the middle of the Swiss alps, (by the way she is an area known as the Swiss Transylvania.) Nothing bad ever happens in a place called Transylvania and no one is ever killed in horrific ways in a beautiful Dario Argento film. Wait what am I saying? Of course they do.

The young girl wanders around a bit and finds a house, like Goldilocks she walks in, she thinks it is empty. Meanwhile, we can see someone pulling their chains out of the wall in the same way that Sloth does in “The Goonies” The girl is chased out of the house and to a waterfall and killed, the way this was shot reminded me of Sam Raimi's camera work in “The Evil Dead” films when the evil chases someone through the woods.

We are introduced to Jennifer's character who is called Jennifer (that keeps this simple then) she is stroking a bee in the back of a car with her thumb. The driver and a fierce lady in the car start to panic and attack the bee and Jennifer tells them to stop, she saves the bee.

Jennifer is the daughter of a film star that all girls fancy, but strangely we never see him. She has been sent to Switzerland to a boarding school picked out by her fathers agent. The school is in Wagner's large house from when he was exiled to Switzerland.

When the car pulls up the Principal is waiting. She is not happy that Jennifer is late, even though Jennifer explains that the plane was delayed. This isn't good enough for Madam Principal.

Jennifer goes to her room and introduces herself to her roommate, a French girl. Jennifer's roommate tells her of the serial killer that is on the loose and killing school girls.

You know, just what you want to hear about on your first night in a creepy place like this boarding school and just before falling asleep.

Jennifer gets up and starts to sleep walk around the school and ends up outside. While another girl is chased around inside the school and is screaming. (Wagner's house has amazing soundproofing.)
Jennifer is still sleep walking and is on a ledge outside a first floor window when the other girl is killed right in front of her causing Jennifer to fall into a bush.

Jennifer who is still asleep and unhurt, continues to walk. She ends up in the middle of a road and is hit by a car with 2 guys in. They stop and put her in the convertible.

I assume they are going to take her to a hospital but Jennifer is still asleep, she struggles against the guys and they nearly have another car accident, Jennifer is thrown from the car and down the hill. The guys are clearly relieved to be rid of her.

It is only now that she starts to wake up. Okay, falling from a building and getting hit by a car do nothing to her sleep but falling down a hill that wakes her up. (That is some serious sleep or jet lag.)

When Jennifer comes round she is greeted by a chimp who leads her to Donald Pleasence. he plays Professor John McGregor who is a forensic entomologist who is helping the police try to find the serial killer through his knowledge of bugs and their life cycles.

Jennifer and the professor become friends due to their love of bugs and it turns out bugs are in love with Jenifer and will do anything for her. (This is the second film I have seen where bugs love a human girl the less said about “The Bee Movie” the better.)

Jennifer goes back to school and the principal and the other lady from the car take her to the doctors to have tests done because they believe that sleep walking is the first signs of schizophrenia. This is a pointless scene that does nothing for the storyline but to make us hate the principal and Frau Br├╝ckner (the fierce lady from the car) even more then we do already.

All the girls at the school find it hilarious that Jennifer sleepwalks, meanwhile she contacts her dad's agent asking to leave the school.

She stays the night at the school and asks her roommate to keep an eye on her should she sleepwalk again. The French girl doesn't care and is more interested in sneaking out to see her boyfriend to make out in the middle of the night.

Surprise surprise they are both killed and Jennifer sleepwalks out of the school and finds a glove that belonged to her roommate which it is full of maggots.

Rather then go back to the school she goes to the Professor and shows him the glove, we get more exposition and an explanation of Jennifer's power to control bugs.

Jennifer goes back to the school again and the principal and the other students all start attacking Jennifer because of a letter she had started writing to her father.

Jennifer stands up and says “I love you, I love you all.” The girls are slightly disturbed by that, however, it wasn't directed at them, but at all the bugs out side which are now covering the school.

The next day the principal has got Jennifer sedated in bed and is going to ship her off the a mental hospital. Jennifer wakes up, she removes the intravenous line in her arm and escapes the school she goes to the professor for help and they decide to use Jennifer's power over bugs to track down the killer.

It is starting to feel like we are getting somewhere with the story, but rather then describe the whole film and spoil the best part of the movie, let me give you my thoughts on the film as a whole.

It is a beautiful film well shout, with great imagery, I would expect nothing less from Argento. The story of an unseen killer killing girls is nothing new, however the story of a strange girl who likes bugs and can control them and is definitely different.

I was pleasantly surprised by this film, people have been telling me for years that Jennifer couldn't act in “Labyrinth” and I always disagreed with them.

I believe I'm right to disagree as Jennifer shows in this film that she can act and be a great lead for a film. Though the film is beautiful, Dario Argento knows how to do creepy and sinister while also grossing out his audiences, this film is no different.

I would recommend that people watch this film, however you should be aware of the type of film this is. If you don't like horror with a psychological and twisted edge then this may not be for you.



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