About a week ago, a bunch of friends and I were reminiscing about some of the classic Italian horror classics from the past. So I got in the mood and popped in the full uncut version of Dario Argento’s Phenomena from Anchor Bay. I plan on going back and watching some of my favorite euro-horrors and writing down some thoughts about them in the near future.
Phenomena is a unique, yet very familiar film for anyone who has watched a lot of Italian horror flicks from the 80s. We have here a wonderful debut by a young and talented Jennifer Connoly, and of course, the legend himself, Donald Pleasance. The two don’t share a ton of screen time in this, but when they do, it’s fun to watch. Admittedly, these were not the finest lines performed, or even one of Pleasance’s best roles played ever, but it’s still a memorable and fun performance to watch for any fan of his. On paper, his character sounds kind of funny. Pleasance plays the role of a Doctor who is some sort of insect specialist, and he uses these insects to help the police to try and solve a crime. This makes me chuckle a little bit every time I sit and really think about it for some reason.
Jennifer Connoly plays a young girl with the ability to understand and communicate with insects. Her character reminded me in some instances to Stephen King’s Carrie (lite version), and in some aspects she reminded me of Argento’s main protagonist in Suspiria (though it has been some time since I last watched that one).
This movie gave me a glimpse and reminder into why I find that era of Italian Horror films so much fun. Everything about it from the music (Iron Maiden!), outdoor shots, cheesy dialogue, and violent content all works together so well to make it an interesting experience. And who can forget the funny window-breaking-head-bash-death in slow-mo’ near the beginning of the film?
Some of the shots, especially the outdoor scenes, are brilliant. Argento was really on top of his game in this one, and I appreciate his attempt at something a little different and unique with this quirky storyline. Although Phenomena is not his best work, it is definitely memorable – what with the revenge-driven, razorblade-wielding monkey, super-duper intelligent insects and all.
I’ll have to dig through storage and bring out my collection of Italian horror so I can revisit them all. It is so much fun, and makes me wish more horror films can make me feel as giddy as that segment of horror cinema history does.