Phenomena (1985)

Horror films often take a “hit-and-run” approach to science.

Take this stylish Giallo thriller by Italian cult favorite, Dario Argento.  We have a genius scientist, an entomologist, played with eccentric zest by Donald Pleasance – one of the indispensable actors of the 70s and 80’s horror boom – who calmly informs us that insects have an incredible talent for Extra Sensory Perception and can communicate with each other over long distances without any apparent connection.


We can, of course, accept part two of that statement without having to go out on that shaky limb for the conclusion that bugs have ESP.

Really.  We don’t.

But, even if you do, it is still a huge reach to go from telepathic bugs to a girl with a gift for talking to – or even controlling – insects.  Even if it is a young Jennifer Connelly just before her dazzling beauty fully blossomed.

This is a weird and beautiful film, with a few truly nasty bits of gore, lots of bugs, a rock soundtrack by Goblin and others that would have sounded completely out of place in anyone else’s horror film, even more bugs, and loads of sheer style.

In other words, exactly what one expects from one of Dario’s horror thrillers.

It’s quite good, and will give you the shudders if you watch it alone late at night.

Just ignore all those tire tracks it left all over science.

3 thoughts on “Phenomena (1985)

  1. I really like Donald Pleasance, but for me this movie was almost so bad it was good. Jennifer Connelly couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag when she was a kid (case in point; “Labyrinth”) and one can only assume that she got work only because she knew someone in the industry or because she was a pretty girl. The movie itself was nonsense and felt more like a extended music video than a coherent narrative. I did think “Phenomena” was almost worth watching for it’s utterly nonsensical and schizoid final thirty minutes. Are there any Dario Argento movies you would recommend that were better than this one? I’ve heard it said again and again that “Suspiria” is a classic. but I haven’t seen it yet.


    1. I tend to be somewhat lenient when assessing the acting in an Italian horror film because I know that even if it was filmed in English, everyone has been dubbed. It’s just how they shot them (cheaply), and can be disconcerting, say, when as in one of Mario Bava’s films, someone else’s voice comes out of Christopher Lee’s mouth.

      I’ve only seen Tenebre, which is more or less the same, lots of style, bad dubbing, American actors sounding odd because their dialogue was re-looped months later (and without the total head-spinning Dr. Doolittle of the insect world bit). Argento isn’t about perfection, just style.

      But for an insanely great (if flawed for all the reasons listed) Giallo film, complete with totally batty ending and SF overtones, try Le Orme:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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