I’m always interested to see where people got there start in movies. Take Billy Bob Thorton for instance. One of his first was a terrible flick called Chopper Chicks in Zombietown. Most people in fact start with something bad, or just small, like Robert Patrick in Equalizer 2000. They work with other little known people. But Jennifer Connelly had a much different beginning. Her first big break was working with two horror legends, Donald Pleasence and Dario Argento. We all know Pleasence from the Halloween series and other John Carpenter movies. Argento isn’t well known in the US, but in Europe he’s a household name in terror. He took a big chance with a young Connelly in the fright fest Phenomena, which was later released in the States as Creepers.
Jennifer Corvino is the daughter of a famous actor and is on her way to a renowned boarding school in Switzerland. She’s a very smart and independent girl who has always had a thing for bugs, in fact she has never been bitten or stung by any insect she has come in contact with. When she meets her roommate Sophie she is told about the killer in the area who kidnaps young girls and murders them. Their full bodies are never recovered, only pieces.
That night Jennifer has a terrible nightmare and while sleepwalking she witnesses a murder in an off limit part of the school. When she finally wakes in a nearby forest, she doesn’t remember the murder, but is met by a little monkey friend and is taken to the house of Professor John McGregor (Pleasence). McGregor is a well known entomologist who is using his knowledge of insects to help solve the murders by pinpointing their time frame. He helps Jennifer and is astounded by her love of bugs and how she is able to interact with them.
The next night, she is terrified that the killer may have seen her, or that she will sleepwalk again. So she asks Sophie to lock the door and keep an eye out for her. But Sophie is a rebel, and meets up with her boyfriend outside the school, and unknowingly wears the shirt Jennifer had on the night before. After her boyfriend leaves, Sophie is chased by the killer through the woods and murdered. Just about the same time Jennifer begins to sleepwalk, but is able to wake herself up before she leaves the room. She hears Sophie screaming, and a firefly helps her find a glove left by the killer in the woods. After a talk with McGregor, they both being to realize that Jennifer’s powers are growing stronger, and she can use her ESP and her connection with the insects to find the killer.
Monkeyface: I was extremely excited to see this movie because it was my first look at a film by Dario Argento. I’m typically disappointed when movies get built up like that, but not in this case. I thought the story was original, and both Connelly and Pleasence did terrific jobs in their role. It was a great slasher flick with a Sci-Fi twist too it. The imagery was masterfully done, and they wait until the last few scenes to give away the true killer’s identity.
Sean: I thought the premise of this movie was pretty cool, a girl that develops ESP and a connection to insects that allows her to actually control said insects helps a scientist solve the mystery of some murdered girls. I was totally wrapped up in this movie and couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I thought some of the minor details were glossed over and added in as almost an afterthought, but overall it did wrap itself up nicely.
Monkeyface: I have to say one of my favorite parts about this movie was the music. I’m a huge heavy metal fan, so hearing bands like Iron Maiden and Motorhead in a horror movie was awesome! A couple places the music didn’t seem to fit, but looking back I think that is more because it is just something so completely different that I didn’t know how to take it. But BRAVO on doing something that hasn’t been done before or since for that matter. The rest of the music was great too. It had that 80’s horror techno feel to it and it was a great fit!
Sean: The music was dope. The 80’s synths were totally in their element here and were used perfectly. They added that creepy feeling to a lot of the scenes, and the opener in particular where a girl gets left behind when her tour group gets on the bus and takes off. She chases after the bus but it’s too late. She decides she has to look for some help and finds this creepy old house where something breaks away from it’s chains and ultimately you see her head floating over some rocks in a waterfall.
Monkeyface: I was shocked at how many “Holy Shit” moments occurred in the last 20 minutes of the movie. Argento left nothing out when it came to the climax, and it was some of the creepiest stuff I had ever seen even for a movie that is over 25 years old. It was great to see the start to Connelly’s career and you see firsthand why she has made it big. Pleasence was again terrific, and even did a really good Scottish accent. I think this is a must see for any horror fan, and I can’t wait to get into some other Argento films like Suspiria. I give Creepers a Phenomena-l 4.5 swarms of Great Sarcophagus flies out of 5!
Sean: I wasn’t so impressed, unfortunately. I enjoyed most of the movie but the ending started to get a little too much for me. One part in particular is this scene with the chimp. Ok, this chimp was MacGregor’s “nurse” as he was confined to a wheel chair. Later the chimp is roaming the country side and eventually finds a perfectly clean straight razor sitting on the top of a garbage can and as soon as I saw that, I thought to myself “Ok, that’s gonna have to work itself into the story again”. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to ruin it so I’ll leave it at that. There were just too many times when I thought I was at the end and Argento sprung something else on me. It was like the “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” ending took some inspiration from this film. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was cool, and in the case of the chimp and Jennifer’s father’s lawyer I thought it was hilarious, but too much of it just jaded my view of the rest of the film. By the end I also felt like Jennifer’s connections to the bugs was something to spruce up the movie and was almost throwaway. And one last thing before I start to get too nitpicky… Who the hell is so f’n dirty that they leave maggots everywhere and on everything they touch? Gross… Phenomena gets 3 “men-o-mena”s out of 5 from me.