10 February 2018

ARROW VIDEO PRESENTS: DARIO ARGENTO'S 'PHENOMENA.' (1985) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




DARIO ARGENTO'S PHENOMENA. (1985) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY DARIO ARGENTO. STORY AND SCREENPLAY BY DARIO ARGENTO. MUSIC BY GOBLIN AND IRON MAIDEN.
STARRING JENNIFER CONNELLY, DONALD PLEASENCE, DARIA NICOLODI AND DALILA DI LAZZARO.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This Italian 'giallo' horror/murder mystery film, coming as it did at the end of Dario Argento's golden decade of movie direction, has garnered some pretty awful reviews. One critic said that Inga the chimpanzee was the best actor by far in the film, lol.

Kim Newman said that the film contained 'astonishingly awful performances', and personally I tend to agree. And not just because he's a critic I admire and whom I saw in person once in 2016, when he was introducing a screening of Hammer's excellent QUATERMASS AND THE PIT at the Irish Film Institute's Folk Horror Film Festival that July. 

Scorching hot it was too, and Mr. Newman was wearing an overcoat-and-wide-brimmed-hat combo that must have been swelteringly unpleasant to cope with. Still, the look is everything, isn't it? We have to suffer for it sometimes. Why else would women stuff their feet into high-heeled shoes that cramp and deform and squish their tootsies if it wasn't to look fabulous and appeal to men? Why did I buy that stupid jacket that time if it wasn't to look cool? There's forty quid of my money I'll never get back again...

Anyway, enough about my fashion tragedies, what do I think of PHENOMENA, or should I say PHENOME-NOT, heh-heh-heh? I think the plot is confusing and all over the place. Jennifer Connelly gives the single worst and most vapid performance in the lead role that you could possibly imagine. Being fifteen years old is no excuse either, lol. There are other dreadfully stilted performances in the film as well, but Connelly's as Jennifer Corvino, the heroine, is by far the worst. I wonder if the Razzies had been invented by then?

On the plus side, and there's usually a plus side, thank God, there's Inga, the charming and aforementioned chimpanzee. She works as a helper monkey for the Scottish paraplegic entomologist (or Crazy Insect Guy!) known hereabouts as John McGregor. Known as that thereabouts too, I shouldn't wonder.

He's played by the wonderful Donald Pleasence, best known for playing Dr. Loomis, Michael Myers's unfortunate psychiatrist in John Carpenter's series of HALLOWEEN horror films. Donald Pleasence definitely weighs in on the plus side here. He can do no wrong in my eyes.

I also love the stunningly impressive shots of trees waving and rustling in the night-time breeze and there are some gorgeous shots too of the lovely Swiss scenery. Apart from the scenery and the presence of Donald Pleasence, however, there's little enough to commend the film except for the kick-ass ending, of which more later.

Anyway, the plot. Such as it is, bitch bitch...! Jennifer Corvino (Connelly) is the daughter of a world-famous movie star Dad, whom disappointingly we never see. She arrives at an exclusive Swiss girls' boarding-school at the exact time that a brutal serial killer is cutting a murderous swathe through young girls in the area. It's hard not to hope that the killer goes straight for the simpering Miss Corvino and puts her (and us!) out of her misery straightaway...

Jennifer isn't popular with her school-mates or teachers because she sleepwalks and she has a kind of gross and rather unbelievable 'shining' thing going on with insects of all kinds. Schoolgirls don't traditionally dig insects, with their clickety-clacking antennae and pincers and dozens of terrifying bug eyes, so you can totally sympathise with Jennifer's revolted school-mates. Eeuw...! They call her Queen of the Bugs, snigger.

Her love of bugs works in her favour when it earns her the respect and friendship of Dr. Loomis, sorry, McGregor, whose house-laboratory is situated near the school. When the loopy pair work out- using entomology- that the killer must be keeping his victims close to him after he's killed 'em, Jennifer sets out to catch the murderer- single-handed, mind- armed with only a Great Sarcophagus Fly in a glass case for company. It's all a bit ridiculous, really.

The ending, with a Tobe Hooper's POLTERGEIST-inspired mucky pool of bobbing corpses, is pretty awesome, especially when compared to the slow and stodgy rest-of-the-film, lol. And if I mentioned to you the presence of a hideously deformed son and a savagely protective
mother who likes to use decapitation as a weapon in her private arsenal, would you not instantly think of a certain other massive horror film franchise spawned around the time of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN? Indeed you would...!

The film is out now from ARROW VIDEO and, despite the negative things that have been said about it (some of them by me, lol!), it's still a film by Dario Argento, the master of the 'giallo' genre, at the end of the day and it's still well worth a look.

The oddly-behaved headmistress is an extremely good-looking and terrifying woman, by the way. I could totally see her in a film about a scantily-clad, whip-wielding Nazi dominatrix. Don't forget to check her out (ja wohl, Frau Commandant!), as well as all the terrific SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS that come with both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions. Right, so enjoy that little lot that, anyway. What's that on your shoulder, by the way? Oh, hang on, it's only a fly. No need to panic...

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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