Blu-ray Review: Dario Argento’s PHENOMENA

PHENOMENA (aka Creepers) was directed by Dario Argento from a screenplay by Franco Ferrini and Dario Argento and stars Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi, Patrick Bauchau and Fiore Argento. The soundtrack features music from progressive-rock favorite Goblin, British Heavy Metal masters Motörhead and Iron Maiden, Andi Sex Gang, Bill Wyman and Simon Boswell.

The young Jennifer Corvino (played by Jennifer Connelly, in one of her first film roles) is sent to a private Swiss academy for girls where a vicious killer is on the loose, brutally murdering students. Jennifer is a “gifted” girl with the strange ability to communicate with insects, and Dr. McGregor (Donald Pleasence) enlists her to help locate the killer. Jennifer finds herself in a bizarre murder plot with maggots, mutants, and razor-wielding chimpanzee mayhem! Can she uncover the killer’s identity before becoming a victim herself?

The opening scene shows a brutal murder take place and this sets things up. The movie follows Jennifer, an American student who arrives at her new private school far away from home where this killer is on the loose and sets their eyes on her. The beautiful Jennifer is sort of a loner and doesn’t really fit in with the other students so she keeps to herself most of the time. She has these special abilities that draws her closer to the killer with each nightmarish vision she has and she also has a special relationship with bugs that slowly comes into play as her story plays out. There’s also Dr. McGregor who befriends the young student to help him with his research that ends up getting the killer’s attention and it doesn’t end well for the good doctor. More murders lead to more clues and Jennifer ultimately comes face-to-face with the sinister killer who finally reveals themself. This is also where a shocking new discovery is introduced into the mix. The young girl ends up getting some surprise help in the end as she battles it out with this sinister threat.

Okay, Phenomena is kind of a whodunnit murder mystery that’s full of horror and suspense. I really got into this intriguing story and these interesting characters and it was Jennifer Connelly who stole the show. Her haunting performance in this 1985 horror feature reminded me of characters in movies like Alice in Wonderland, Parasomnia, Don’t Look Up and After. All of these movies have a dark fantasy element to them with strong female leads. There’s also the legendary Donald Pleasence who plays this likable supporting role with a pet monkey. I’m not really sure why there’s a monkey in the movie but it does get to have a little fun as it all plays out! Anyway, I’ve always been fascinated with Dario Argento’s style of filmmaking and you can tell when it’s an Argento film by certain camera shots and angles that he uses. His movies also usually have some beautiful cinematography and Phenomena is one of the best. This is a beautifully shot movie that’s complimented by an amazing cast and a fantastic rocking soundtrack.

The front of the packaging features the Phenomena artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features the original Creepers artwork and movie credits. The two Blu-ray discs also feature their own individual artwork. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. All three cuts of this film have been re-mastered in high-definition. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio for this stunning Blu-ray release.

Bottom line is, I remember renting Phenomena (aka Creepers) at the video store as a kid and it was really cool to revisit this 80’s horror creeper in high-definition plus this release features all three cuts of the movie and that’s a really nice touch by Synapse Films. I’m aware that this movie has had previous Blu-ray releases but it’s hard to beat anything that comes from the Synapse gang because they go above and beyond with everything they crank out. Simply put, they take their time and do things right. Dario Argento had his own unique style of filmmaking and this one was one of his best horror offerings. The movie is a haunting fairy tale that’s brought to life by Argento’s giallo-style and is complimented by a talented cast that includes a young Jennifer Connelly and the legendary Donald Pleasence. There’s also some blood and gore to go along with all of this awesomeness! Phenomena releases on a 2-disc Blu-ray set on September 12th and is definitely worth checking out. Be sure you check out this impressive high-def restoration for this 1985 cult classic!

Distributor: Synapse Films

Run Time: 306 Minutes (Total of three different versions)

Rated: Phenomena – Not Rated / Creepers – R

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.66:1) Region A

Blu-ray Audio: English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English

Special Features: Good Stuff! This 2-disc Blu-ray set includes three stellar cuts of the movie. The extras include some audio commentary, alternate audio mixes, a documentary, interviews, two trailers and a radio spot.

  • THREE different cuts of PHENOMENA, all available in high-definition for the first time ever in one collector’s edition package!
  • Audio Commentary Track on PHENOMENA (110 Version) from Argento scholar and author, Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio/television commentator, David Del Valle
  • Two completely different sound mix options on PHENOMENA (110 Version), including the original 2.0 stereo mix, along with a rare alternate mix containing different sound effects and music cues.
  • English/Italian Hybrid Audio and Complete Italian Audio Options for PHENOMENA (116 Version)
  • DARIO ARGENTO’S WORLD OF HORROR – Documentary. A fascinating look at the early films of director Dario Argento, including PHENOMENA, SUSPIRIA, DEMONS, DAWN OF THE DEAD, INFERNO and many more! Containing candid interviews and awesome behind-the-scenes footage, DARIO ARGENTO’S WORLD OF HORROR gives us a look into the mind of Italy’s Master of Horror and is an essential viewing experience for all Argento fans.
  • Interview with Andi Sex Gang
  • PHENOMENA – International Theatrical Trailer
  • CREEPERS – U.S. Theatrical Trailer & Radio Spots
  • Optional English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard for Hearing on PHENOMENA (110 Version and CREEPERS Version)
  • Multiple optional subtitle selections on PHENOMENA (116 Version), including one for just the foreign English language segments of the hybrid version, complete English subtitles for the entire feature, and complete English subtitles for the Italian version of the film.

 

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