Referred to as giallo with paranormal, this was Argento's only cinematic disaster according to most fans and critics. Phenomena is a concoction of ideas combining the giallo elements of murder mystery with a mish mash of supernatural, present in his earlier films.
Young Jennifer Corvino (Connelly) is sent to a remote boarding school in the Swiss Alps complete with introductory voice-over a-la Suspiria (1977). She becomes involved with the solving of a spate of murders which have plagued the area and resulted in numerous missing girls. With her apparent telephatic powers over insects she is persuaded to track the crimes using a Great Sarcophagus Fly... the idea being that fly larvae infests dead bodies so what better way to locate fresh corpses of the new victims. Donald Pleasence is the charismatic Entomologist who discovers Jennifer's powers and helps her to use them in attempting to solve the murders.
Phenomena is a departure for Argento and has been generally panned and ridiculed, yet this is a thought provoking fairy tale that never lets you settle, often beautiful in its ability to couple images with sound. The pastel shades and overwhelming blue look with shadows are ever present here. Using surreal lighting and empty locations Argento has created a film which is better watched from the "outside" as he has said. Using louma-crane shots over trees and windswept fields he has delivered something very different to his other films and is definitely worth another look especially on DVD.
Anyone who is familiar with the films of Argento cannot really fail to express some form of fondness for 'Phenomena'. Apparently this is the Italian's favorite of all his films, yet this is a picture which divides the critics of the auteur director, most of them unwilling to leave the confines of earlier more sensational work. This film will appeal to those who appreciate unique and imaginative films. See also "The Black Cat".
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