Creepy Argento Madness

Dario Argento’s Phenomena (originally released as Creepers in the United States) represents a shift away from the great Italian horror maestro’s classic films into new territory. Part slasher mixed with a melting pot of bizarre ideas, some would say it reflects a period of continued decline in the 1980s for the filmmaker as Italian cinema itself began falling apart. While his undeniable talent is on full display in Phenomena, it doesn’t pack the same punch as classics like Suspiria and Deep Red.

Starring a beguiling Jennifer Connelly in only her second screen role paired with a somewhat out-to-lunch Donald Pleasence as a paralyzed scientist, Phenomena is a hodge podge of half-baked ideas forced into a story relying more on dream logic than a coherent structure. A young girl with a psychic connection to insects battles a killer on the loose. The most entertaining supporting character is a marvelously well-trained chimpanzee. There’s enough weirdness within the gruesome storytelling to keep audiences guessing.

Phenomena is a hodge podge of half-baked ideas forced into a story relying more on dream logic than a coherent structure

That’s not to say the eerie thriller isn’t worth a look; a haphazard Argento flick is still eminently worthy for horror buffs. Jennifer Connelly already has the screen presence of an established star. Throw in a heavy soundtrack led by acts such as Motörhead and Iron Maiden, Phenomena is a watchable entry from the great director given the gory set pieces and interesting chemistry between the young Connelly and elderly Donald Pleasence. It’s just not great filmmaking or groundbreaking in any way.

Young American Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) is sent to a private Swiss academy for girls where a murderer is on the loose. Jennifer has a special gift she barely understands, a psychic connection with insects. Investigating the murders, local scientist Dr. McGregor (Donald Pleasence) enlists her help solving them. The eccentric McGregor has a chimpanzee companion always by his side who figures into the twisted plot.

Operating on a sort of deranged dream logic, Argento crams Phenomena with terrifying set pieces which barely hang together inside the narrative. The screenplay is bursting with great ideas, though almost recklessly mixed inside a bizarre murder mystery.

Jennifer Connelly serenely glides through the madness, almost above the fray. Argento delivers wickedly frightening visuals and a few truly eerie moments, which makes up for the strange detours into entomology. The final act is a glorious climax of demented terror. Anyone with a taste for exotic Italian filmmaking or Jennifer Connelly should give Phenomena a chance. Others may be less impressed.


Three different versions of the film are spread over two triple-layer UHDs: Italian, International and “Creepers” versions are all shown in 2160P resolution with full Dolby Vision color corrections. Synapse Films licenses the excellent 4K restorations of all three cuts by Arrow Video, who put these same transfers out in the UK. Now is the time to buy Phenomena, this is the best the thriller will ever look and sound. While the film’s cinematography has a couple of optical quirks, there’s no doubt it looks magnificent on UHD.

The 4K presentations bring a film-like fidelity with lovely color correction and proper authenticity. The Dolby Vision pass enhances the HDR with tighter color saturation and more natural rendition. Grain reproduction is beautiful, fully capturing the somewhat erratic nature of the cinematography. A perky contrast and deep primaries are seen in crisp, vivid definition. Flesh-tones are highly realistic.

The film elements are remarkably well preserved, displaying few anomalies inside the 1.66:1 presentation. Scans taken from the original camera negative, they exhibit excellent definition and depth. Detail is fairly nice and sharp, revealing remarkable texture and highlights. Especially noticeable are the gorgeous design elements of the set pieces’ production, almost imparting a surreal quality to the visuals. Shadow delineation and black levels are usually impressive, if a bit spotty in a couple scenes.


Phenomena’s occasionally incongruous soundtrack offers a bevy of popular musicians, including progressive-rock notables Goblin and British heavy metal favorites like Motörhead and Iron Maiden, not to mention Andi Sex Gang, Rolling Stone Bill Wyman and composer Simon Boswell. Multiple soundtracks are offered for each of the three differing cuts, including 5.1 DTS-HD MA for the Italian version and two separate stereo tracks for the International cut offering different effects and musical cues.

You get 5.1 Italian DTS-HD MA and 2.0 DTS-HD MA stereo soundtracks, derived from the original 4-channel Dolby Stereo recording elements. There are minor sibilance issues here and there but otherwise the soundtracks offer crisp dialogue exchanges with smooth dynamics.

Optional English and English SDH subtitles are available depending on the soundtrack, playing in a white font. The English subtitles are available for the Italian soundtrack and the English-Italian hybrid soundtrack.


If you missed out on Synapse Films’ fantastic limited edition release of Phenomena, this regular edition has the same two identical discs, losing only physical extras like a 60-page booklet and double-sided poster. No Blu-rays are included and the UHDs are coded for all regions. The regular release does include a slipcover.

Loaded with a bevy of involving and in-depth supplements, including a feature-length 2017 documentary produced for Arrow Video, it’s an essential purchase for all Argento fans.

Audio commentary on the Italian Version by Troy Howarth, author of Murder by Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento

Of Flies and Maggots (120:13 in HD) – A feature-length 2017 documentary produced for Arrow Films, including interviews with cowriter/producer/director Dario Argento, actors Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta, Daria Nicolodi and Fiorenza Tessari, cowriter Franco Ferrini, cinematographer Romano Albani, production manager Angelo Iacono, special optical effects artist Luigi Cozzi, special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, makeup artist Pier Antonio Mecacci, underwater camera operator Gianlorenzo Battaglia, and composers Claudio Simonetti and Simon Boswell.

Original Italian (02:36 in HD) and international (02:36 in HD) theatrical trailers

“Jennifer” music video (04:11 in SD) – Directed by Dario Argento

Japanese pressbook gallery

Audio commentary on the international version by Argento scholar and author Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio/television commentator David Del Valle

The Three Sarcophagi (31:02 in HD) – A visual essay by Arrow producer Michael Mackenzie comparing the different cuts of Phenomena.

US “Creepers” theatrical trailer (01:27 in HD)

US radio spots (01:03)

Full disclosure: This UHD was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

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Argento’s disjointed but often terrifying thriller is a stylish mess with jaw-dropping set pieces and an adolescent Jennifer Connelly

User Review
4.5 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots ripped directly from the UHD:

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