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Did I just watch a Dario Argento movie?
I'll be honest here about two things; 1 - I just recently watched Phenomena for the first time. 2 - This is also my first 'review' on IMDb (and English is not my native language so pardon for the grammar mistakes and wording fails).
I wouldn't consider myself an avid Argento fan, but I do admire his stylish camera-work, coloring and bloody deaths in his directorial movies. I've seen most of his giallo/thriller/horror flicks and for several reasons couldn't get my hands onto this one until this year. My expectations weren't sky high, but I must say this movie disappointed me on a big scale though. I'm not saying it's a bad movie per se, just a let down from Argento.
The premise I always thought was interesting. Jennifer Connelly having the ability to control and/or communicate with insects. And of course some maniac killer at large using mostly a knife who Jennifer sets out to go after. That is the basic plot. Shortly put anyway.
Phenomena has its' moments though. OK soundtrack (if you like Goblins and hard rock/heavy metal) and some VERY wtf moments! (few of the wtf moments actually are due to the use of heavy metal songs in places you wouldn't have expected. Not necessarily a bad thing but those scenes in my opinion only added camp value)
Some reviewers seem to have a problem with the acting but anyone who has seen Argento's movies would know not to expect Oscar worthy performances. So I can see why some complain and dislike the movie only for this reason (I can imagine many watched the movie just for J.Connelly as she is nowadays somewhat a bigger star).
The acting didn't bother me really throughout. I found Connelly and Pleasence being as good as they could be (given the dialogue), however I think it's worth mentioning that there is a scene where Pleasences' character, who is an entomologist, sends Jennifer to search for the killer, accompanied by a sarcophagus fly (which detects (rotting) human bodies from long distances. Because the killer likes to keep his victims nearby after murdering them). "I wish you all the luck in the world, my two detectives" He says, and sends poor Jennifer off. I mean, sending a 15 yr old girl to chase a killer. He couldn't give her at least a weapon of some sort not to mention maybe calling the cops to do the search?! Oh and worth noting is, in case some are wondering why didn't he embark on this dangerous mission, that Pleasance is handicapped and in a wheelchair. And has a sweet monkey as his nurse.
Writing has never been Argento's strong points but unfortunately in Phenomena he hits rock bottom. Seems to me that the only reason the insect aspect was in it, so that at the end Jennifer, under distress calls out a huuuge horde of flies to attack the killer. OK, and for the already mentioned scene with Pleasance. That being said, this was the first time I was laughing out loud on some scenes due to the silliness of the dialogue and actions of the characters. Like I said, I don't expect very rational or witty dialogue from Argento, but at the end of the day I was feeling even sad that this is what he only could come up with.
In the trivia section it says that Dario considers this as one of his favorite works. Maybe true, maybe not. I guess he had a blast making it though, unfortunately the ready work is nowhere near his other and better works. When talking about the horror genre.
This was just a little too campy in my taste to be a Dario Argento movie. Don't get me wrong, it's not through-out campy. It is one weird and fascinating movie despite its' flaws. My reviews' beginning may have implied my disappointment towards this movie a bit too harshly, but I realized I wasn't bored at any point. And that means something to me at the end.
I gave this one a 6/10.
PS. I personally think it's his weakest horror film. Some of you rate this as your favorite Argento movie and often so because it was the first movie of his you saw. I totally get this. My first was Tenebrae and that remains still my favorite :) Peace y'all.