Phenomena (1985), 18, Director: Dario Argento

Master of giallo Dario Argento has many signature moves to his films - brunettes being slaughtered in terrible ways, blind men, strange meetings and reveals near fountains, and secondary killers - but nothing can quite prepare you for the wonderful offerings of Phenomena. This film is utterly bonkers, with a star turn by a razor-wielding chimpanzee. And if you've ever wanted a fly detective's point of view shot, you're in for a treat.
Known as Creepers in the US and as cut to bits as Argento's female characters, ignore that version and go for the full hog of Phenomena. As a horror fan, it's possibly one of the greatest things you'll ever see; an early example of torture porn/Hostel, and with blatant references to Friday the 13th.
It's also a bit of a creepy love letter to a young teenage Jennifer Connelly, who plays Argento's protagonist Jennifer Corvino. It's a bit...uncomfortable really. Like Suspiria, Jennifer arrives from America to board at school - not a ballet school this time, but an Academy for Girls in Switzerland. She's prone to sleepwalking, and witnesses the murder of a young woman whilst wandering one night. When her roomie is violently murdered too after having a naughty snog with her boyfriend in the grounds of the school in the dead of night, Jennifer sleepwalks to meet a firefly. Who leads her to a maggot-encrusted glove. A firefly. That's right, Jennifer can communicate with insects!
Onto Donald Pleasence. We suspect you've probably never seen him play a forensic entomologist before, with a monkey assistant? To call his acting hammy would be, well, accurate, but for some reason in Phenomena it just works. It adds to the experience and the overall enjoyment of the film. Pleasence's character John McGregor shows a professional interest in Jennifer's ability to captivate insects, and there's also an unhealthy undercurrent that he may be interested in a bit more. Phenomena is like that you see - Jennifer is the apple of its eye. Men, women and wee insects are all enthralled by her.
Probably Phenomena's greatest moment is when McGregor identifies the maggots on the glove as that of the Great Sarcophagus fly, which is mad for decaying human flesh. Jennifer naturally uses her gift to let one of these particular flies act as a tracker to the murderer. That really doesn't do the fly justice; he's the Poirot of Great Sacrophagus flies. We buzz around the potential murder house, as if we were the great fly detective. Marvellous work Argento, marvellous work.
Phenonema really gets fun when Jennifer is captured by the murderer, as she battles for survival in a creepy locked down house with a Dante's Inferno pit of decaying, miserable corpses, and torture porn shackles and chains. You can almost see where Eli Roth got it from with the sequence where Jennifer tries to escape by boat, a similar shot to Hostel: Part II where Lorna is taken for a boat ride. And what lurks in the boat, and later underneath the water, plus the structure of who the killer/s are, is soooooo Jason Voorhees.
Do give it a go as it's really worth it, especially if you're a horror fan and not familiar with Dario Argento's work. It's not classic Argento, this is something else and completely in a league of its own. Did we mention that everyone gets murdered to Iron Maiden and Motorhead? It's a joy to behold.
5/5 Bono fly glasses