Greene Screene: Phenomena

Now Showing on The Greene Screene: Phenomena (1985)

Apparently, just past the halfway mark to Halloween, my wife and I find ourselves in a giallo groove, and it’s glorious.

Italian maestro Dario Argento is best known for his Animal Trilogy (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Cat o’ Nine Tails, Four Flies on Grey Velvet) and Three Mothers trilogy (Suspiria, Inferno, Mother of Tears), but some of my favorites of his are standalone features, which is where PHENOMENA fits in.

The film stars Jennifer Connelly a year before Labyrinth, as Jennifer, a teenager sent by her famous filmmaker father to the Richard Wagner Academy for Girls in Switzerland. A school for girls named after a man? Always a bad omen.

We quickly discover that Jennifer is torn from the pages of a Stephen King novel. Like Firestarter or Carrie or what have you, Jennifer has a gift — insects of all kinds don’t ever bite her. Nay, they love her, they are aroused by her. They will do her bidding.

Insert pregnant, discomfiting pause here.

As screenwriting fate would have it, Jennifer finds herself in a town with an enthusiastic entomologist (played by Hall of Fame actor Donald Pleasance) and his trusty/violent chimp Inga (played by Hall of Fame actor Tanga), both striving to solve a series of macabre murders by a skin-crawling killer.

It must be said that Tanga, a chimpanzee with a scary butt and even scarier acting talent, deserves an Oscar for her riveting performance, even if she may have bitten off part of Connelly’s finger in the climactic, wonderfully insane final scene.

In Argento’s twisted mind, reality is a slippery surface forever out of reach — we flit from dreams to reality, from Italian to English, from sane to insane at the whims of a fly. And for at least one viewer, it all makes a disturbing amount of sense.

Given that the East Coast is in the throes of cicada mania, it’s the perfect time for a maggoty movie beyond compare, a good old-fashioned bug romp to further illustrate that insects will outlast us all.

Throw in Argento fave Daria Nicolodi channeling her inner Pamela Voorhees, the most anxiety-inducing scene of adolescent bullying since Carrie and music from a goth-rock band called Andi Sex Gang, and you have yourself the perfect diabolic date night movie.




A writer & traveler when his cat allows, located in glittering Glendale, CA.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Rising Star Muretta Moss On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment Industry

Virus Outbreak/Zombie Movies to Watch

My Biggest Complaints about Disney’s First Black Princess

Shaun Paul McGrath plays Ben Benner The Widow’s Moon (Feature film)

Inspirational Women In Hollywood: How Tiffany Rhodes Is Helping To Shake Up The Entertainment…

LAFF 2017 Women Directors: Meet Valerie Red-Horse Mohl — “Mankiller”

The Black Fables streaming

SXSW 2017 Women Directors: Meet Emma Franz — “Bill Frisell, A Portrait”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Andrew Greene

Andrew Greene

A writer & traveler when his cat allows, located in glittering Glendale, CA.

More from Medium

The Architect of Liberation: Eugenio María de Hostos

After Several Years of Progress, Opioid Deaths Surge in New York State During Peak COVID Year

Legendary African-American Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves

The Unbearable Weight of Fantasy, Tolkien, and Race (or, Eh, Black Elves Are Fine)