PHENOMENA
1985
Director: Dario Argento
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Synapse Films returns to knock out another Dario Argento classic onto Blu-ray disc. They originally released it as a very limited steelbook and now as a standard Blu-ray for those of us collecting Blu-rays on a budget. Is this more basic edition still worth getting? Let’s find out.

Phenomena, released in North America as Creepers, is one of Argento’s weirder films, and if you know his body of work then you’ll know that’s saying something. Listen to this, a very young Jennifer Connelly plays the daughter of a famous actor who can talk to and control all sorts of insects. That alone would be a full movie in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, but wait; we haven’t even gotten started with the weird. She is sent to a very exclusive girl’s school in Switzerland that just so happens to have someone with a collapsible spear murdering young girls and leaving maggot-infested gloves behind. She meets Donald Pleasence as a wheelchair-bound entomologist with a chimpanzee as his nurse and best friend and the two decide to become amateur detectives looking for the murderer with the aid of a carrion-loving fly (no, really). They manage to find the lair of the mysterious spear-spree-killer and that’s not only when the blood really starts to hit the fan, but it’s also just the beginning of WTF moments. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Jennifer’s character sleepwalks a whole lot while having vivid visions of a glowing white hallway? Yeah, I don’t know why, and the movie never explains it, but she does. Anyway I won’t give away the totally crazy ending, but I will say that as far out of left field as it is, I loved it. Oh and the Iron Maiden song that comes out of nowhere, twice. Yeah, that was pretty cool too.

Hey, you know those movies where people say “Aw man, you’ve just got to see it to believe it”? Well, Phenomena is a prime example of one of those. Luckily for you, it’s an Argento flick which means it looks simply amazing so your eyes will be entertained while your mind is being blown. I tell you, if there was one director born for high-def, it’s Dario Argento and his masterful use of color. This new Blu-ray has Phenomena looking better than ever before.

Now the good news is that this edition is not as bare bones as you would first think. Yes, it doesn’t have the cool steelbook cover, but it comes with two Blu-rays and a nice collection of extras. There is an episode of “Dario Argento’s World of Horror” that runs one hour and eleven minutes. There is an interview with Andi Sex Gang who worked on the soundtrack to the movie that’s four minutes long. There is a trailer for Phenomena, another Creepers, and a collection of radio spots.

Lastly, to sweeten the deal, it has to be pointed out that there are three versions of the film here. There is the US edition of Creepers at 83 minutes, one Phenomena cut that is 116 minutes, and another cut also titled Phenomena that runs 110. Not bad for a “standard” edition, huh?

Come on people, this is Argento and Synapse Films back together again. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as the limited steelbook edition, it also doesn’t come with that edition’s price tag, either, and it still has some nice extras to boot. So given all that, consider this one highly recommended.