Plot: What’s it about?
I’m going to say two words, and then tell you how they relate. Insects and serial killers. Now, even after you read this review, you may not understand how they relate, but come on, horror movies don’t need realism, now do they? First, the serial killer portion of the equation. At a boarding academy for young girls, a serial killer is on the rampage, leaving a trail of blood and bodies behind. Now, the insects part. At this same academy is Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), a young girl who has a special talent that most girls don’t have. And just what is this special power? Well, she can communicate with insects. Yep. Damn, what a weird ass movie. Anyway, she thinks the insects may hold the key to stopping the maniac’s killing spree, so she consults the campus insect specialist, Dr. McGregor (Donald Pleasence). Together, these two have to unlock the secrets of the insects, and put an end to the bloody warpath before the killer catches up with Jennifer, and makes her the next victim.
This is what horror is all about, baby. You’ve got a storyline that has to unfold before your very eyes in order to understand it, you’ve got excellent gore effects, and you’ve communications with the insect world. While this movie was released here in the states awhile back on home video as “Creepers,” the distributor saw fit to chop the flick up, taking out almost twenty-eight minutes! Yikes! Thankfully, the kind folks at Anchor Bay have issued this horror classic in its complete and uncut state, restoring the hacked scenes into their rightful place. The atmosphere and style of this film are excellent, which helps to set a creepy tone for the film. Myself, I’m creeped out by people talking to insects no matter what. By reading the plot synopsis, you’re thinking the storyline is too out there, but this is horror, so suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the finely crafted cinema presented here. This new Special Edition has a slightly better transfer and a new featurette, but everything else is the same. I’m not sure if an upgrade is justified, but Phenomena is a great movie and is well recommended.
Phenomena may have an unusual storyline, but man, what a fantastic cast! Ok, so really there are only two names most of you will recognize, but I like the cast, so I might get a little gushing. Anyway, Jennifer Connelly has the lead role, and honor of having mental powers to control bugs. What a sweet role, huh? Connelly (The Rocketeer, Dark City) gives a knock out turn here, especially given the unusual material she’s performing with. As far as horror goes, this is one of the finest female performances I’ve seen. And I’ve seen my fair share, I assure you. Also making his presence felt is Donald Pleasence, who many of you will remember from the Halloween movies. He turns in his usual watermark turn here, which is of course, very good. The supporting cast includes Fiore Argento (Demons), Elenora Giorgi (Inferno), and Dalila Di Lazzaro (Lady of the Evening).
Video: How does it look?
Phenomena is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. This release provides us with a much anticipated anamorphic upgrade, but do the visuals benefit that much? As was the case with the new release of Tenebre, this looks to be the same basic transfer as before, just anamorphically enhanced. The original treatment was good for the time, but the advances made since made me expect a vast improvement. Instead, we have a slight step up, but no real major enhancements. So an upgrade might not be instant, even for dedicated fans.
Audio: How does it sound?
The main audio soundtrack is the same as before, but that is fine. This release implements a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track for audio, which ensures a powerful and enveloping experience. While the mix is not always pounding with high impact audio, you’ll notice many subtle surround uses, which help the creepy factor quite a bit. This remixed track really shines, and watching the movie is a more enjoyable experience thanks to the efforts. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround option, as well as a French language track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The lone new supplement is A Dark Fairy Tale, a seventeen minute featurette with interviews with some of the film’s more prominent players. This piece is solid, but doesn’t have the kind of great information I wanted. A decent, worthwhile featurette, but I just expected more. The rest of the extras are from the previous release, but at least they’re all here. The disc includes an interview with director Dario Argento with Joe Franklin and a behind the scenes segment. Two music videos, by Bill Wyman and Claudio Simonetti are packed on the disc, and are very interesting to say the least. The best feature of all is a very informative commentary track featuring Dario Argento, make up effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti, and journalist Loris Curci. This track is filled with inside info on the flick, and if you love this movie, you will kick yourself if you miss this track. The original theatrical trailer closes out the special features.