Sleepwalking during her first night at a boarding school in the 'Swiss Transylvania', American student Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) witnesses the brutal murder of another girl. Fleeing the scene, she eventually ends up at the home of local forensic entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasance) and his chimpanzee attendant, Inga. Learning of her unique ability to telepathically communicate with insects, John asks Jennifer to use her unusual talent to help him catch the psychopath who has been butchering girls at the school.
As this brief synopsis makes clear, Dario Argento's Phenomena (1985) is completely bonkers. It should also be clear that the film suffers from a surfeit of ideas (even more than are mentioned above), none of which are really fully developed. But the utter lunacy of the story is brought to the screen with enough of the filmmaker's stylistic flourishes and sufficient moments of outright horror to keep you entertained, which is a lot more than you can say for Argento's more recent movies.
Picture: Phenomena has been restored in 4K by Arrow Video for this Blu-ray release and is presented in three different versions across three discs. These take the form of the 116-minute cut released in Italy, a 110-minute re-edit prepared for the international market, and the 83-minute hatchet job performed by its US distributor (released as Creepers).
While some additional restored 2K sources were used in the two shorter cuts, the image quality across the trio is largely identical. Framed at 1.66:1, the 1080p BD encode is a marvel; showing an enormous uptick in colour reproduction and fine details over Arrow's original 2011 HD release. There's also none of that disc's distracting digital noise to be seen, either.
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: In addition to LPCM stereo and DTS-HD MA 5.1 Italian language tracks, Arrow has overseen the production of new stereo and 5.1 'hybrid' English tracks for the 116-minute cut of the film. Primarily based around the English production audio, with an Italian dub used for the additional footage, there are some unavoidable shifts in quality between the sources, but it still shows surprising cohesion and consistently.
Audio rating: 4/5
Extras: A cornucopia of bonus goodies includes a commentary on the 116min cut by genre expert Troy Howarth; a video essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the differences between the three cuts of the film and the creation of the new hybrid English-Italian soundtrack for the 116min version; a new 120-minute retrospective documentary about the making of the film; trailers, a music video directed by Argento; a gallery of images from the film's Japanese pressbook; a 60-page booklet; and the CD soundtrack.
Extras rating: 5/5
We say: The film isn't Argento's best, but this extras-laden hi-def release is a must-own for his fans.
Phenomena: Limited Edition, Arrow Video, Region B BD, £40
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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