Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Phenomena (1985)

This film should definitely not be confused with Phenomenon, which came out a decade later and appears to be come kind of dreadful, maudlin romance flick (I have no objection to romances in general, just maudlin ones).  This movie on the other hand, is Dario Argento at his most Argento.

The film begins with a young woman missing her bus.  The road seems pretty deserted, so she sets off in search of help, and is shortly thereafter decapitated.  It's an Argento film, after all.

Some months later, another young woman arrives at an academy in Switzerland while the police are speaking with an entomologist about a series of murders.  He's able to help identify how old a body is by the types of insects found upon it.  The new young woman, meanwhile, also expresses a great fondness for insects during the drive to her new school.

As it happens, all this bug-lovin' is plot-related.  It's also utterly, totally appropriate for the film as a whole, because this movie is certifiably bug nuts.

That nuttiness is by far the most compelling part of the film, but it also makes it hard to review because - even though I'm not actually recommending you see it, for reasons I will get to shortly - if you do see it, you really ought to have the benefit of going in unspoiled, so that you can get the full impact of the narrative insanity that unfolds.

Which just leaves us with the reasons you shouldn't see it.  They basically come down to the pacing - there's a reason the original US release of the film, in which it was retitled Creepers, had over 25 minutes of cuts - and a certain sense that at least some of the film's crazy arises from Argento (who wrote as well as directed) simply not bothering to try and come up with something more sensible or plausible.  There's a faint whiff of laziness to the lunacy.

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