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Film / Phenomena

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Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), the daughter of a famous actor, Paul Corvino, arrives in an elite academy in Switzerland. Unfortunately, there are several factors that make the transfer to a new school hard on her:

  1. Jennifer has the ability to attract and communicate with insects, which may guarantee her billions of friends among arthropods, but alienates her human peers.
  2. She is a chronic sleepwalker, which serves to make her look even more suspicious in the eyes of the faculty and students.
  3. There's been a series of grisly murders in the area, and new bodies are still turning up.

During one of her nightly trips, Jennifer meets and befriends Professor John McGregor (Donald Pleasence), a kindly old entomologist who has been helping the local police with the murder investigation. McGregor is fascinated by Jennifer's strange gift, and soon she gets to put her abilities to good use by doing a little amateur sleuthing of her own.

Phenomena is a 1985 film directed and written by Dario Argento, starring a young Jennifer Connelly (in her first leading role), huge swarms of flies and a chimpanzee wielding a razor. The initial U.S. release of the film was edited down and re-titled Creepers, though it has since then received an uncut DVD release in the States.

Was the main inspiration for the original Clock Tower game for Super Famicom.

Not to be confused with another film titled Phenomenon, which is an entirely different creature.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alone with the Psycho: And his past victims if they count.
  • And Starring: THREE actors get the special credits in the film, (Con = With.) With Dalila Di Lazarro, With Patrick Bauchau, and With Donald Pleasence in the role of '"John McGregor."
  • Asshole Victim: Sophie and Frau Brückner. Also, despite knowing so little of them and after learning what kind of people are within the boarding school, the student victims prior to Jennifer's arrival and Sophie's death can count too, as almost every female student except Jennifer is The Bully with no decent soul living there with the teaching staff filled with Sadist Teachers led by a cruel Dean Bitterman, making this boarding school of a doozy of a social Crapsack World within.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Frau Brückner loses it completely in the end and starts cackling like mad.
    • That's not even mentioning her son and how fucked up he is. He kills without provocation, and Frau Brückner had to set up a special dumping ground for whenever he kills someone.
  • The Beast Master: Jennifer can telepathically communicate with insects and summon swarms of insects to attack people.
  • Big Bad: Patua Bruckner, a Serial Killer offing girls near a boarding school.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Inga, Professor McGregor's chimpanzee, kills Frau Brückner when she tries to decapitate Jennifer.
    • Also, Inspector Rudolf Geiger. When Jennifer trapped in the watery vat of decomposing bodies, and Frau Brückner is stomping on her fingers to prevent her escape, Geiger, who is chained to a wall, painfully BREAKS one of his thumbs so he can slide one of the cuffs off of his hand, allowing him to get close enough to wrap an arm around Frau Brückner's neck and give her one Hell of a beat down, which then gives Jennifer enough time to get out of the pit and escape.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Sophie who mocked Jennifer behind her back and left her without bothering to even lock the door.
    • And Frau Brückner who looked like a reserved and shy woman while she was actually a warped and tormented maniac.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jennifer survives the ordeal and the villains are killed, but Dr. McGregor and Morris, her only human friends are also dead and Jennifer hugs Inga the ape as a reminder that her only friends now belong to the animal kingdom.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Though most of the survival horror happens outside the school perimeter, its the social kind of horror that happens inside but with a headmistress such as this the two overlap, in a sense.
  • Brutal Brawl: To give Jennifer a chance to escape, Insp. Geiger batters Frau Brückner's face with his shackled right wrist, with gory results, before seemingly throttling her to death.
  • The Cavalry: A HUGE swarm of flies respond to Jennifer's distress when she's cornered by Brückner's insane son, and they start devouring him before he falls into the lake.
  • Child by Rape: Frau Brückner's child is a result of her rape by the inmates of the local insane asylum.
  • Cool Old Guy: Prof. John McGregor. He welcomes Jennifer into his home the first night after she's strayed far from the girl's school, in part due to her sleepwalking. He gives her a coat, as it's cold, seems to sense that she's a bit of a loner and invites her to visit, and gives her a nifty trick to wake herself up the next time she sleepwalks And the advice works. He's also entirely nonjudgmental about Jennifer's apparently psychic abilities with insects, and while she's decades younger than he is, recognizes how intelligent Jennifer is and actually ends up capitalizing on her abilities, with her approval, to try and catch the serial killer.
    • Also, Morris Shapiro, The Corvino family attorney. When she finally reaches him by phone, Shapiro immediately beats feet to come and collect Jennifer, and then spends the last act of the film tearing around the countryside trying to find her. Even cooler, Jennifer mentioned that she wanted to leave because she didn't want to be killed by the serial killer. As Shapiro goes to more and more places Jennifer could be, and fails to find her, he opens a wooden box and arms himself with a Colt .45 pistol, recognizing that Jennifer is likely in danger, and he needs to find her as fast as possible, and should be armed when he does.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Frau Brückner's son.
    • Jennifer herself, although it's not an overt kind of creepy beyond having a few spaced out moments.
  • Dean Bitterman: The headmistress of the school. As cruel and unhelpful as Dr. McGregor was nice. The moment she saw from her top floor window Jennifer setting foot at her school, it was Hate at First Sight.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Jennifer.
  • Ethereal White Dress: Jennifer, who for most of the film is associated with death, in the most iconic scenes wears a white dress that floats in the wind. It makes the scenes even more atmospheric.
  • Final Girl: Jennifer.
  • Foreshadowing: When Jennifer goes to Frau Brückner's house, if one pays close attention the living room looks pretty familiar, because it is exactly the same as the house in the Alps. This could symbolize that despite changes on the outside, the killer and his mother are still exactly the same as they always were. Also Jennifer mistaking a creepy doll for the boy is a warning about his less than canny and human appearance.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Jennifer is a friend to all things six-legged, which, unfortunately isn't endearing to most people around her.
  • Friend to Bugs: Jennifer loves insects the way other girls love kittens.
  • Genius Cripple: Wheelchair-bound Professor John McGregor, who helps the police by analyzing the data of his insect pets.
  • Hate Sink: The headmistress, a cruel taskmaster who allows Jennifer to be bullied by the other girls and eventually tries to lock her in a mental institution when she tries to talk about her bug communication powers.
  • Help Mistaken for Attack: When Jennifer is in the basement trying to use the phone she dropped, a chained and bloodied Geiger reaches through the wall and grabs her. He explains profusely that he's there to help her, but Jennifer, who's nerves are understandably frayed by that point, freaks out thinking he's trying to harm her instead, and accidentally falls into a watery pit containing maggot-infested, decomposing bodies.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Insp. Geiger, chained to a wall, breaks a thumb to free himself from a chain and get close enough to Frau Brückner and beat the crap out of her and give Jennifer a chance to escape. He doesn't beg Jennifer to stick around and try to free him either. Brückner manages to kill him off screen before surprising Jennifer at the end of the film.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Jennifer, due to her powers and sleepwalking, making her a prime suspect in the latest spree of killings in the eyes of her human peers and the headmistress.
  • House of Broken Mirrors: The killer's house has hidden mirrors. Which makes it even more disturbing when you consider that they could just remove them, instead of letting them serve as horrible reminders of the killer's reflection.
  • Idiot Ball: Some of the victims seem to go out of their way — like walking into dark forests or abandoned houses — to get killed.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Jennifer and Professor John McGregor, who understands her better than any people her age. Tragically it doesn't last long...
  • Jerkass:
  • Kid Hero: Jennifer is a teenage hero but does better than the police thanks to her unique skills.
  • Madwoman in the Attic Frau Brückner's deformed son got an upgrade when they moved, from being chained to a hidden room to being chained in the basement, where he could have fun with his playmates.
  • Mama Bear: Frau Brückner is a sinister version.
  • Meaningful Name: Jennifer's last name is Corvino which in Italian, translates to raven, a bird that was historically shunned because of its presumed association with death. Jennifer is likewise ostracized by most of the students and faculty at her school because of her weird tendencies and this worsens when many characters initially think she is behind the recent killings.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Poor Professor McGregor.He understood too much to live.
  • Missed the Bus: Vera Brandt, the teenage tourist at the start of the film.
  • Nice Girl: Jennifer, who unfortunately has very few friends.
  • Nightmare Face: Good God, Frau Brückner's kid.
  • No Name Given: Frau Brückner's son isn't referred to by name in the film, but it seems his designation is Patua.
  • Offscreen Karma: The film ends with the killers dead, one of them a teacher and deputy Headmistress of the school. Though it's never openly stated, this means that the school's administration will be in deep shit and that at the very least the Headmistress will be removed from her position, which is fair considering she tried to unlawfully incarcerate Jennifer. Also, the school is probably going to be facing a legal shitstorm once Jennifer's father, a famous and wealthy actor, finds out the Headmistress tried to have his daughter unlawfully incarcerated without so much as a phone call to her legal guardian.
  • Older Than They Look: Frau Brückner was raped 15 years ago, but her son has the stature of a five or six year old. Of course, then he turns around to face Jennifer and size doesn't matter anymore.
  • One-Woman Wail: The beginning of the film's main theme.
  • One-Word Title: Phenomena
  • Police Are Useless: Only slightly subverted. Insp. Geiger, who has been following Jennifer, only tracks down Frau Brückner (Who is shielding her son, the film's killer,) because Jennifer is at her home. She gets the drop on Geiger and injures him before chaining him to a wall. Geiger does get a hero moment, when he painfully breaks a thumb to free one of his chains and get a hold of Frau Brückner to give her a beat down, but the bloodied Frau Brückner confronts and attempts to kill Jennifer at the film's end, revealing that she managed to regain the upper hand and finish Geiger off.
  • Pull the I.V.: Downplayed. When Jennifer realizes the person watching her has fallen asleep, she very carefully removes what's keeping the IV attached, gently tugs on it to remove it, then wipes the blood and keeps pressure on it.
  • "Rear Window" Investigation
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Inga the chimp does not take her master's death lightly.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Dr. McGregor who was one of the last people who deserved to die in the film.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Morris Shapiro's Off with His Head! death catches both Jennifer and the audience terribly off-guard.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A weird example that probably isn't deliberate. Some of the very intense horror sequences in the film are backed by Iron Maiden, of all things. It comes across as narmy Nightmare Retardant to most viewers.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When Jennifer realizes she's been poisoned, you see the whole process of her forcing herself to throw it up.
  • World of Jerkass: The film depicts Switzerland as this way, from a boarding school being a Wretched Hive filled with horrible female students and teaching staff to a pair of motorists who picked Jennifer who mishandled her and calling her a "little shit" when she tries to escape to finally a deformed killer being on the loose.
  • Wretched Hive: The boarding school, where the students are merciless bullies and the faculty are abusive criminals.

Alternative Title(s): Creepers