Friday, October 2, 2009

Film Review: PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 110 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Donald Pleasence, Fiore Argento. Music by Goblin, Iron Maiden, Bill Wyman, Andi Sex Gang, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Motörhead.
Tag-line: "Jennifer Has A Few Million Close Friends. She's Going To Need Them All."
Best one-liner: "I love you...I love all of you..."

Jennifer Connelly plays a girl named Jennifer who can telepathically communicate with insects in this Dario Argento masterpiece. The atmosphere is exquisite- dreamlike, comforting, dangerous.

Something about his use of the Swiss Alps, the rustling pine trees, the ominous mountain winds, and the over-the-top gore... it's a throwback to the original R-rated storybooks: brutal folklore like the Brothers Grimm.

I love this movie. I love the fact that there is one line of narration in the entire film, spoken about twenty minutes in. I love that in that one line of narration, they mispronounce the name 'Richard Wagner.' I love that there is a chimp with a straight razor (in homage to Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"). Between this and SUSPIRIA, it is clear that Dario Argento loves maggots, retching, girls' boarding schools, brutal murders, and the volatile combination of all four. I love that he loves that. I love that there's not only ladybug POV, sleepwalking POV, murderer POV, and Great Sarcophagus POV, but there's also MAGGOT POV.

I love that the supernatural is represented by fan-blown hair.

I love that the ending somehow manages to be as abrupt AND more ridiculous than the screamfest at the end of TENEBRE. I love the inappropriate use of heavy metal, the baroque visuals, the viscerality, the Bee Gees & Richard Gere references,

the charming and sympathetic Donald Pleasence (in spite of Argento dialogue),

the evocative soundtrack, the bitchy teachers straight out of fact, there's nothin' NOT to love here. The only way it could be more ridiculously perfect would be if she made out with the chimp.

Oddly enough, a sequel was planned in 2001, but was held up by rights issues with Medusa. But Dario, who considers the film his personal favorite and "a story I look at from the outside," has peppered his subsequent works with little nods to PHENOMENA, from the odd Swiss epilogue in OPERA to the skull and maggot pit in MOTHER OF TEARS.

Viva Argento!

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)

1 comment:

Ray Crowe said...

This is a refreshingly offbeat and wacky giallo with supernatural overtones that I instantly loved. However, I think the 110-minute version is a bit overlong and could use some editing of superfluous scenes. The 82-minute American version Creepers cuts some good gore and a couple of important scenes, so I think the best cut would be somewhere between the two available versions.