Movie Review: Phenomena (1985)

Jennifer Connelly PhenomenaThis weekend, I flew down to Florida to visit my uncle. As my uncle had a tendency to like any kind of B-grade, C-grade, D-grade or even F-grade horror movies, we ended up watching one of those movies found on those “50 horror movie” DVD packs, which are typically a septic tank of movies no one ever wants to see. Luckily, my uncle decided to be nice and chose Phenomena (also known as Creepers), an early Jennifer Connelly movie that is surprisingly decent – if not still rather cheesy.

Phenomena is about a 15-year old girl (Connelly in her pre-eyebrow trimming days) who finds herself at a private, all-girls school in Europe. Daughter of a popular actor, she has the looks and smarts to be popular herself, except she has a rare gift that is subject to making her quite weird: in addition to sleepwalking, she can also talk to insects.

Aside from the fact that the main character can control bugs not unlike Carrie could control objects, the movie is a relatively straightforward horror movie. Someone has been killing young women (and decapitating them), and young Jennifer Connelly believes that with the help of her insect friends, she can find the killer. As she learns from Donald Pleasance, the maggots found in a rotting corpse have a story to tell. It’s an early “CSI” if I ever saw one, but the film eventually relies on Connelly to make her way to the truth.

The movie is definitely cheesy in parts, doesn’t always make sense and has a few moments completely out of left field, but it is mildly entertaining. What really makes the film are a few scenes near the end. While the gore isn’t anything spectacular, there are a few gory scenes, and a sequence where Connelly is thrown into a pit of rotting carcases and maggots is especially appetizing. Also, the introduction of a deformed maggot boy who likes to tear the flesh off his own face is also a highlight.

Fans of B-grade horror movies should find some entertainment here, as Phenomena is definitely on the high end of “crappy” horror. It isn’t that good, but it isn’t bad at all.

By Erik Samdahl
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