Jennifer Connelly (Hulk)
Daria Nicolodi (Opera)
Dalila Di Lazzaro (The Cat)
Patrick Bauchau (A View To a Kill)
Donald Pleasence (Halloween)
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.
McGregor gives Jennifer a glass case with a Great Sarcophagus fly and suggests she use it to track the murderer. When the fly leads her to the same house that Vera had found earlier, Jennifer is told to leave when the real estate agent catches her, assuming her to be a thief. Geiger arrives and gets some information from the agent before leaving. Later that night, McGregor is murdered in his home after Inga is distracted and locked outside. With nowhere left to go, Jennifer calls her father’s lawyer Morris Shapiro (Mario Donatone) for help. He alerts Brückner, who finds Jennifer and offers to let the girl stay at her house overnight. Once there, Brückner advises Jennifer to take some pills before she goes to bed; when Jennifer does so, she becomes sick, assuming that the pills were poisonous and coughs them up. After leaving the bathroom, she attempts to call Morris but is knocked unconscious with a piece of wood by Brückner, who incarcerates her in the house. Geiger arrives at the house and is attacked by Brückner.
After coming to a brief time later, Jennifer engineers her escape through a large hole in the floor that leads through a tunnel to a dungeon and into a basement. She falls in a pool infested with maggots and dead bodies. Geiger is in the room, above Jennifer, struggling to free himself from chains attached to his wrists. Brückner appears and teases Jennifer, but Geiger frees himself from the chains and holds Brückner just enough to let Jennifer escape. Following her escape from the pool, she passes a room from which she hears sobbing. There she finds Brückner’s son (Davide Marotta), who has a hideously deformed face, the result of a rape. He chases Jennifer onto a motorboat and tries to kill her, but she summons a swarm of flies that attack him, causing him to fall into the water. Jennifer is forced to jump into the water as the motorboat explodes, whereupon the child grabs her. Rising into the flaming waters, he is eventually killed. Jennifer reaches the shore just as Morris appears. Brückner reappears and decapitates him. She then leans over Jennifer threatening her with the same fate before confessing that she murdered McGregor and Geiger out of fear that harm would have befallen her son. Suddenly, Inga attacks Brückner and kills her with a razor. With the ordeal over, Jennifer and the chimp embrace.The then 15-year-old Jennifer Conelly’s acting is simply outstanding, a perfect performance from the beginning to the end. The supporting cast is also very good, the great Donald Pleasence’s performance as Prof Mc Gregor is just one of many very memorable performances in Phenomena. As usual for Argento, the movie is impressively photographed on great, scary locations. Dario Argento has always placed great emphasis on impressive colors (especially red, of course), and hardly ever have I seen a movie as visually stunning and awe-inspiring as Phenomena.