Phenomena (Creepers)


Phenomena (Creepers)

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Total Count: 18


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User Ratings: 9,709
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Movie Info

Similar to the theme about the young woman with psychic powers in Stephen King's Carrie, this above-par occult horror film stars Jennifer Connelly as Jennifer Carvino, a fragile-looking waif whose unusual power to control insects comes in handy when she is psychologically brutalized in a nightmarish Swiss boarding school. Two vicious teachers and students who constantly taunt her out of jealousy (her father is a famous movie star), make Jennifer's life at school an inferno. When she calls on her insect friends for help, the school becomes victimized by swarms of nasty flies. But in the meantime, more serious evil is afoot in the mountains: some sort of monster is murdering young girls and the only one who seems even close to catching the killer is a wheelchair-bound scientist who specializes in insects (Donald Pleasance). He has the bright idea of unleashing a "sarcophagus fly" that will find decaying corpses and thereby lead Jennifer to the dead victims and it is assumed, the killer as well. Director Dario Argento's trademark dream/nightmare sequences add their own horrific content to the story, and the few plot holes here and there are offset by some mind-numbing images that are expected by any cognoscenti of this genre.


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Critic Reviews for Phenomena (Creepers)

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (14) | Rotten (4)

Audience Reviews for Phenomena (Creepers)

  • Sep 23, 2013
    "Phenomena, do-do do-do-do, phenomena, do-do-do-do, phenomena, do-do do-do-do do-do-do do-do-do do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do!" Even when written, twenty do's is too annoying to be funny in this case, even if this is an Italian film, like, "Sweden: Heaven and Hell", the film for which "Mah Nà Mah Nà" was made. That's right, folks, the song was, in fact, not originated for either "Sesame Street" or "The Muppets", and if it was, then perhaps the person who would be most annoyed by my forced reference would be Jennifer Connelly, because when all the other kids were off watching "Sesame Street" and "The Muppets", Connelly was starring in this messed up little Dario Argento film. Granted, Connelly was about 13 when this film was made, long after she floated in the demographic "Sesame Street" and "The Muppets Show" were directed toward, but hey, those shows weren't too much kiddier than the lame title we Americans came up with for this film's release in the States, "Creepers". Man, this film lost about 30+ minutes in its American cut, a year after "Once Upon a Time in America" was released in American cinemas with a runtime of almost two hours and a quarter, so the mid-'80s was the time for the US to neuter artistic Italian visions, or at least the ones with a young Jennifer Connelly. Granted, the Italian films in question were mostly in English, so apparently the Americans know something about marketability, but still, the point is that the Italians couldn't entirely catch a break in the '80s, which isn't to say that the losses of this film were likely as great as the ones ostensibly faced by "Once Upon a Time in America", because not even the realized cut of this film is all that. Yeah, this film is far from a "phenomena", but hey, it could be worse, and would have been if it wasn't for certain strengths. Italian progressive rock band Goblin was fairly popular with Italian filmmakers... and George A. Romero for a while during the '70s and '80s, and in the wake of the original line-up's break-up, bassist Fabio Pignatelli and keyboardist Claudio Simonetti joined forces with then-newcoming film score composer Simon Boswell to create a score for this film that is often monotonously overstylized in an overly '80s fashion, but generally reasonably colorful as a stylish tonal compliment, and when it comes to the unoriginal soundtrack, the '80s metal tunes are often cheesily forced, but also color things up. Perhaps just as complimentary of the tonal depth of this thriller as the soundtrack is Romano Albani's cinematography, which is held back by glaring technical shortcomings in filming that I will touch more upon later, but about as effective as it can be in its plays with sparse lighting that sell a sense of claustrophobia. On an artistic level, whether it be because of technical limitations or whatever, the film isn't too striking, but it is nevertheless stylish, and I can respect that, - even with the technical shortcomings - partially because the effective areas in style are often sold by what Dario Argento does reasonably well as storyteller. There's something very distant about Argento's storytelling, and that, coupled with other missteps in Argento's directorial performance, drives the final product into mediocrity, yet at the same time, when Argento does something sort of right, he plays an instrumental part in securing the film as borderline decent by establishing a fairly effectively brooding atmosphere, complimented by audacious, if questionably produced violence, as well as by the performances, or at least a particular performance. There are no real standouts in the supporting cast, some of whose members are just downright weak, but when it comes to the first lead performance by the lovely young Jennifer Connelly (Yes, I know that she was, like, 13 at the time, but we may as well give credit where it's due before those blasted eyebrows kick in), there is some pleasantly surprising impressiveness, as Connelly convinces enough in her portrayal of the somewhat eccentric lead - who fears for her life and mental stability - to almost carry the film. Sure, Connelly is not given enough material to truly save the mess of a final product, but she pulls off more than you might expect, even if you're a fan of the skill she would go on to flaunt as a very talented performer, and such talent joins style and directorial highlights in bringing the film to the brink of decency. Alas, in the long run, the final product falls short, having decent highlights, to be sure, but not enough to escape mediocrity, or at least call your attention away from the technical shortcomings. Now, this is an independent film of the '80s, so by no means are we dealing with all that high of a technical standard here, but there's hardly any excuse for this film to get as technically messy as it does, watering down many of the violent segments with questionable special effects, and watering down most every segment with grimy filming and uneven sound mixing, which aren't simply distancing, even by '80s standards, but kind of cheesy, like plenty of other elements in this film. As surely as commendable style is often undercut by technical shortcomings, the effectiveness of the film's soundtrack is, as I mentioned earlier, often betrayed by cheesily, or at least forcibly overstylized musicality, while cheesy elements in writing and mythology structuring undercut the effectiveness of substance, which, quite frankly, was always to be held back, even on paper. There's a certain intrigue to this film's story concept I suppose, as reflected by genuine highlights in engagement value, but on the whole, this thriller isn't all that conceptually thrilling, offering limited characterization, a well as a conflict presented so sparsely that you begin to forget about it as the plot meanders along, struggling to reach its point in a way that is hardly special, even when you disregard the genericism. On top of being limited in weight, this film's story is very, very, very formulaic, only, you know, with less parading of potentially tense conflicts, being heavy in tropes, to the point of thinning out an unpredictability that a mystery thriller of this nature should be driven by, yet isn't, seeing as how seeing where this plot is heading is hardly a challenge. The film isn't simply generic, it's trite, offering little that you haven't already seen before time and again, and such predictability, as well as the cheesiness, bland things up seriously, almost to the point of driving the final product into the mediocrity that is ultimately secured by the many things that Dario Argento does wrong, quite wrong. As I said earlier, there are some effective beats to Argento's handling of this "thriller" that give you enough glimpses into a better film for decency to almost be achieved, but on the whole, Argento's storytelling falls flat, being cold and aimless, with a hint of dullness, or at least consistency in some serious degree of blandness that makes the other problems in storytelling all but impossible to ignore. In terms of quantity, there's not a whole lot that's wrong with this film, but strengths are also limited, and weaknesses are glaring, or at least subtly piercing, watering down potential time and again until, before too long, the film sputters out as mediocre and never fully recovers, coming close to decency, but, rather unfortunately, not quite close enough to engage as much as it probably should. In conclusion, highlights in the effectiveness of the soundtrack, cinematography and direction, as well as an almost surprisingly engaging lead performance by the lovely Jennifer Connelly (Again, I know she was 13, but man, curse the eyebrows for coming in!), bring the final product to the brink of decency, ultimately betrayed by glaring technical issues that join writing issues in producing a cheesiness that calls your attention more toward the considerable narrative blandness that, when made all the more uncompelling by trite plotting and distant direction, nudge Dario Argento's "Phenomena", or, for us ignorant Americans, "Creepers" (Lame title for a lame movie) a forgettably mediocre misfire of an unthrilling thriller. 2.25/5 - Mediocre
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 2013
    This movie proves to have no real direction. I have heard that Argento just wanted to work with Connelly, and this I believe. There's a lot about this film like though. There's a heartbreaking scene where a Chimp helplessly watches as his master is killed, that kind of got to me. There's a nice scenic piece where Jen takes a bus ride too. But the really great part of this film is the last few minutes. A pit of larvae, a possessed freak of a child boy, and a not so happy ending. It's not all doom and gloom, but it surely isn't the best for Jen. On a side note, Rhapsody of Fire covered this song's theme, which I believe is original, in their song "Queen of the Dark Horizon."
    Horrific R Super Reviewer
  • Jul 21, 2012
    Not as terrible as its reputation would have us believe this is still the worst Argento film I've seen so far. The opening suggests we're returning to the traditional giallo films of the late 60's and early 70's but as soon as we meet Jennifer (Connely) and discover her link to insects the film loses any trace of reality. Don't get me wrong some of the film works really well. The relationship between Connely and Pleasence (the latter especially good) is believable and touching and the ending, although insame, is a welcome return to excess of the old Argento. But the script is pretty awful here and Argento's use of Heavy Metal to underscore some scenes come across as a little like 'Spinal Tap' shooting a music video! When the most likeable and touching character in a film is a monkey with a razorblade then you know something is terribly wrong!
    David S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 17, 2012
    a Young (teen) Jennifer Connelly plays the daughter of some celebrity. She's sent to a boarding school in Switzerland where her peers learn of her bug powers. They never hurt her, and she seems to be able to control them. Good thing she uses them to find out who the serial killer in the area is. I liked the mystery & suspense of it. I never guessed who it was. B

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