It’s frustrating to admit that Phenomena doesn’t work for me given all of its delicious ingredients: A young Jennifer Connelly in the ingénue role? A devious Daria Nicolodi? Donald Pleasence using a wheelchair in a supporting role, accompanied by an awesome chimpanzee assistant? Bugs, gore and even an offensively grotesque monster-child finale? It all sounds so damn good and yet the film as a whole feels like the start of Argento’s slide into his lesser, later era. Not even the great score by Claudio Simonetti plays frequently enough, supplanted by contemporary rock music that never quite captures the right atmosphere for the film.
The ending, though, is a pretty extraordinary exercise in insanity. It just takes a long, plodding time to get there, regurgitating a lot of Argento’s favorite story beats in lesser forms.
Jennifer (Jennifer Connelly) is the daughter of a famous actor, and she’s sent to an academy for girls in Switzerland. Unfortunately, it’s where there have been many local murders of young women. Jennifer starts experiencing psychic phenomena — visions and the ability to control insects. She befriends entomologist John McGregor (Pleasence), and the two try to help investigate the killings.
There’s some interesting story ideas here, particularly Jennifer’s relationship with insects and how the particular insects aid their investigation, but it just never gathers much steam. At least not enough for my tastes.
The 4K UHD release by Synapse is, of course, gorgeous. This isn’t one of Argento’s best-designed films; it’s filmed with a blue filter and emphasizes insect photography and close-up gore (almost Lucio Fulci-like) over vibrant settings and human bodies, his general stock-in-trade. However, the high resolution really pops during the climax and feels almost too detailed during the iconic “maggot pool” sequence.
- 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentations in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
- New 4K restorations of all three versions of Phenomena, including the original Italian version (116 minutes), the international cut (110 minutes), and the U.S. Creepers cut (83 minutes)
- Lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo soundtracks on the international version, derived from the original 4-channel Dolby Stereo elements
- Rare alternate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo mix on the international version, featuring different sound effects and music cues
- Lossless Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo soundtracks, derived from the original 4-channel Dolby Stereo elements
- Lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono and 2.0 “stereo music version” soundtrack on the Creepers cut, mastered from the original 3-track DME magnetic mix
- Lossless hybrid English / Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the hybrid soundtrack
- U.S. theatrical trailer and radio spots for Creepers
- Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
- Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of Murder by Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento (on Italian Version)
- Audio commentary on the international version by Argento scholar and author Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio / television commentator David Del Valle
- Of Flies and Maggots, a feature-length 2017 documentary produced by Arrow Films, including interviews with director / producer / co-writer Dario Argento, actors Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta Daria Nicolodi and others
- The Three Sarcophagi, a visual essay by Arrow Films producer Michael Mackenzie comparing the different cuts of Phenomena
- “Jennifer” music video, directed by Dario Argento
- Slipcover/o-card with artwork from Nick Charge
- Reversible cover with original Italian Phenomena art