Taglines: A nightmare ALIVE!
Jennifer Corvino, the daughter of a famous actor, has had trouble with sleepwalking for some time. Her doctor said that it can develop a split personality. She discovers her alternate personality when she stays at a boarding school that was once the home a Richard Wagner. But someone has been killing the students, and it relates only indirectly to the criminal sanitorium nearby. So it’s up to “the two greatest detectives the world has ever known, or should I say, unknown”
Phenomena is a 1985 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento and starring Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, and Donald Pleasence. Its plot focuses on a girl at a remote Swiss boarding school who discovers she has psychic powers that allow her to communicate with insects and uses them to pursue a serial killer who is butchering young women at and around the school.
After its release in Italy, Phenomena was purchased for distribution in the United States by New Line Cinema, who cut over twenty minutes and released it under the title Creepers. The film features a score by regular Argento collaborators Goblin and Simon Boswell, as well as a multitude of heavy metal songs on its soundtrack. The film inspired much of the Japanese horror video game Clock Tower.
About the Story
After missing a bus in the Swiss countryside, a tourist, Vera Brandt (Fiore Argento), tries looking for help. She comes across a home and, upon entering, she is attacked by an unknown stranger, who proceeds to chase and behead her.
Eight months later, Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), arrives at the Swiss Richard Wagner Academy for Girls, chaperoned by Frau Brückner (Daria Nicolodi), who places her with roommate Sophie (Federica Mastroianni). While sleepwalking through the academy and out onto the roof, Jennifer witnesses a student being murdered. She awakens and falls, fleeing and eventually becoming lost in the woods. Forensic entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasence)’s chimpanzee attendant Inga (Tanga) finds her and leads her to him.
Witnessing her apparent interaction with his insects, McGregor comes to believe she has a special gift for telepathy with them. Inspector Rudolf Geiger (Patrick Bauchau) is on the case alongside McGregor. Back at the academy, the headmistress has Jennifer medically tested via EEG for her sleepwalking. The procedure makes Jennifer uneasy when she gets brief visions of the previous night’s events. The headmistress has Sophie look after Jennifer in case she sleepwalks again.
Following an illicit tryst the same night, Sophie is murdered. Jennifer sleepwalks again. When she goes outside, a firefly leads her to a maggot-infested glove. The next day, she shows this to McGregor, who identifies the maggots as Great Sarcophagus flies, which are drawn to decaying human flesh. He theorises that the larvae’s presence on the glove indicates that the killer has been keeping his victims close to him post-mortem, unintentionally collecting the larvae on himself whilst physically interacting with the victims.
This indicates that they are dealing with a psychopath. Later at the academy, when the other students taunt Jennifer for her connection to insects, she summons a swarm of flies which covers the entire building, then faints. Convinced that Jennifer is “diabolic” and possibly responsible for the killings, the headmistress arranges for her to be transferred to a mental hospital for the criminally insane. However, Jennifer flees to McGregor’s home in time to evade the transfer.
Directed by: Dario Argento
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi, Federica Mastroianni, Fiorenza Tessari, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Patrick Bauchau
Screenplay by: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Production Design by: Maurizio Garrone, Nello Giorgetti, Luciano Spadoni, Umberto Turco
Cinematography by: Romano Albani
Film Editing by: Franco Fraticelli
Costume Design by: Giorgio Armani, Marina Malavasi, Patrizia Massaia
Music by; Simon Boswell, Goblin
Distributed by: Titanus, New Line Cinema
Release Date: January 31, 1985 (Italy) August 2, 1985 (USA)