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Phenomena

Theatrical poster to the US release of Phenomena (1985)
Directed by Dario Argento
Produced by Angelo Jacono,
Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento,
Franco Ferrini
Starring Jennifer Connelly
Daria Nicolodi
Dalila Di Lazzaro
Donald Pleasance
Patrick Bauchau
Music by Claudio Simonetti
Fabio Pignatelli
Bill Wyman
Simon Boswell
Cinematography Romano Albani
Editing by Franco Fraticelli
Distributed by Titanus
New Line Cinema (USA, theatrical)
Anchor Bay Entertainment (USA, DVD)
Release date(s) January 31, 1985 (Italy) August 2, 1985 (USA)
Running time 110 min
Edited version:
82min
Country Italy
Language Italian
German
English
Budget $3,800,000 (estimated)

Phenomena is a 1985 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento. An edited version of the film was released in the United States under the title Creepers.[1]

Jennifer Connelly stars as a young girl who arrives at an eerie Swiss boarding school where the students are being butchered by a vicious serial killer with her as the prime suspect due to her bizarre behavior. With the help of a wheelchair-using scientist, played by Donald Pleasence, she discovers she has special psychic powers, and uses them to pursue the killer before she becomes the next victim. It was Argento's first film to be shot in English, although only the scenes of Connelly and Pleasance together were shot sync sound.

Argento himself stated: "Phenomena was inspired by something I heard about insects being used to solve crimes, and because insects have always fascinated me I began to make a story around this idea. You know, it's a terrible thing, but there are many insects that are disappearing. Becoming extinct. But most people only want to kill them. You know, insects have souls, too; they're telepathic... amazing. People want to save the whales and dolphins, but nobody wants to save the insects. I'm a vegetarian, because I don't want to kill things to eat."

Also, Phenomena is cited as being a possible influence on the video game, Clock Tower.

Contents

Plot

A lost tourist, Vera Grandt (Fiore Argento), is beheaded in the Swiss countryside. Her head is found by Inspector Rudolf Geiger (Patrick Bauchau) and his assistant, Kurt (Michele Soavi), who take it to entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasance). He estimates the time of death by examining the maggots.

Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), insect-loving daughter of a movie star, arrives at the Swiss Richard Wagner Academy for Girls, chaperoned by Frau Brückner (Daria Nicolodi), who places her with roommate Sophie (Federica Mastroianni). While sleepwalking, Jennifer witnesses a student being slain. She awakens and falls, ending up lost in the woods. She is discovered by Inga (Tanga), McGregor's chimpanzee attendant, and brought to him. He believes her to have a special gift for telepathy. Jennifer's memories of the murder she witnessed are vague, and a brain scan by the school doctor (Antonio Maimone) is not helpful in addressing her sleepwalking.

After Sophie is killed, a firefly guides Jennifer to a maggot-covered glove. Back in the school, when the students taunt Jennifer for her connection to insects, she summons a swarm of flies to the school, which cover the whole building; then she faints. Convinced that Jennifer is threateningly insane and presumably responsible for the killings, the headmistress arranges for her to be transferred to a mental hospital for the criminally insane. Jennifer runs away from the school just in time to evade the transfer.

In an attempt to find the killer, McGregor gives her a living specimen of the Great Sarcophagus fly, which is drawn to decaying human flesh. Attracted by a severed hand, the fly leads her to the abandoned house where Vera Grandt was attacked. Inspector Geiger follows up and discovers that the house was abandoned about eight months ago.

McGregor is murdered. With nowhere left to go, Jennifer calls her father's lawyer for help. Instead of sending cash for a plane ticket, however, he alerts Frau Brückner, who finds Jennifer at the bank waiting for the money to be wired. Brückner tells Jennifer that she can return home, but a flight will not be available until the next day. Jennifer agrees to stay at Brückner's house overnight.

At Brückner's house, Brückner explains that the mirrors are all covered because they upset her son, who is profoundly mentally disturbed. Then she abruptly claims that Jennifer has a fever and adamantly demands that Jennifer take some anti-fever pills that obviously are not aspirin. Jennifer reluctantly agrees to take one and locks herself in the bathroom for privacy. After swallowing one pill, she notices that there are many maggots in the bathroom. Realizing that something is terribly amiss, she purges the pill and comes out of the bathroom. Suspicious, Brückner sees the purged pill in the sink and the other pill still in the foil. She imprisons Jennifer in a room after abusing her for disposing the pill.

Inspector Geiger comes to question Brückner, whom he has discovered was the owner of the house where Vera Grandt was attacked. In conversation, it is revealed that Brückner once suffered a brutal assault herself some years ago. (The amount of time suggests that her son was the result of that attack.) Brückner also confirms that she lived in the house in question; however, sensing where the conversation is going, she violently ends the interrogation.

Meanwhile, Jennifer escapes from the room into a tunnel leading underneath the house to a dungeon. She is suddenly grabbed by Inspector Geiger, who has been chained to the wall. Frightened by his mutilated appearance, she backs away and falls into a pool full of decaying, maggot-infested bodies. Brückner comes in to laugh and finish them off, but Geiger breaks his own hand to get free of the shackles. He holds Brückner off long enough to allow Jennifer to escape.

In the basement, Jennifer finds Brückner's son, Patua (Davide Marotta), with a hideously deformed face. He chases Jennifer onto a motorboat, but she manages to escape his attempts to kill her by summoning a swarm of flies to devour his face, leaving him drowning in the lake. On the shore, she is greeted by her father's agent/lawyer Morris Shapiro (Mario Donatone), who came to help after an earlier telephone call. He is immediately decapitated by a mad-crazed Brückner, using a piece of sharpened sheet metal. In the final conflict between Brückner and Jennifer, Brückner is suddenly attacked and killed by Inga with a straight razor.

Cast

  • Jennifer Connelly - Jennifer Corvino
  • Daria Nicolodi - Frau Brückner
  • Dalila Di Lazzaro - Headmistress
  • Patrick Bauchau - Inspector Rudolf Geiger
  • Donald Pleasence - Professor John McGregor
  • Fiore Argento - Vera Brandt
  • Federica Mastroianni - Sophie
  • Fiorenza Tessari - Gisela Sulzer
  • Mario Donatone - Morris Shapiro
  • Francesca Ottaviani - Nurse
  • Michele Soavi - Kurt, Geiger's Assistant
  • Franco Trevisi - Real Estate Agent

Trivia

  • Shot in English and dubbed into Italian.
  • Most of the Italian and other non-English speaking actors/actresses actually dubbed their own voices into English for the USA and UK distribution.
  • A sequel to Phenomena was going to go into production in 2001 but it was canceled due to Dario Argento's contract with Medusa.
  • The larvae were created by placing vermiculite in water and adding liquid chocolate and essence of mint.
  • Director Dario Argento often cites this film as his personal favorite among his works.
  • The trained chimpanzee that plays Inga escaped into the woods at one point during shooting. After a few hours of searching she was found and returned to the set.
  • Jennifer Connelly said in an interview that she was bitten by the chimp in this film. Apparently during one scene the chimp kept turning around and Dario Argento, not wanting to film her behind, asked Connelly to place her hand on the animal to stop her from turning. But when she attempted to do so, the chimp became enraged and bit her; and then became very hostile toward Connelly for the rest of the film.
  • The film was inspired to Dario Argento after he learned that insects are sometimes used during murder investigations.
  • The story Jennifer tells about her mother abandoning her was an actual story from Dario Argento's own childhood.

Distribution

For its US release, Phenomena was retitled as Creepers and heavily edited to remove nearly thirty minutes of footage. The murder sequences were shortened by several seconds to remove gore, a sequence where the second victim is spotted and chased by the killer was removed, and two lengthy scenes (which make up the bulk of the missing footage) involving Jennifer Connelly's character telling her roommate the story about how her mother abandoned the family on Christmas Day (as Argento's own mother had done) and her character receiving a brain scan after the second murder were removed for the purposes of speeding up the flow of the film.

Anchor Bay released the film to DVD in 1999; restoring the film's proper name and restoring all missing scenes from the original US release. The original film (or Integral cut) of the film is available in Europe, on Region 2 DVD. The Integral cut (or Integral Hard, as it is known in Japan) never existed in English, but only in the dubbed Italian version, and adds only a few seconds of cut footage to some scenes, mostly of B roll material.[2]

Soundtrack

The film's score features music by Goblin, Bill Wyman, Andi Sexgang, Iron Maiden and Motörhead. Goblin, by this time, consisted only of Claudio Simonetti and Fabio Pignatelli. Simon Boswell, who also composed the Andi Sexgang songs, provided some of his earliest film scoring work in this film.

Some pieces are exclusively composed for this film, e.g.:

  • "Phenomena" by Claudio Simonetti
  • "Jennifer" by Goblin
  • "Sleepwalking" by Goblin

Some songs are taken from other releases, e.g.:

  • "Locomotive" performed by Motörhead
  • "Flash of the Blade" performed by Iron Maiden

There have been several soundtrack albums released with different track listings[1].

References

  1. ^ NYC’s Scary Movies 3 gets Red; free tickets to AMERICAN WEREWOLF w/Landis!
  2. ^ Video Watchdog #50.

External links

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