Movie Review: Phenomena (1985)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1985 thriller starring Jennifer Connelly and Donald Pleasence.

Synopsis: A young girl travels to Switzerland to attend an exclusive boarding school and becomes a social outcast because of her sleep walking. However, she has other things on her mind because there is a serial killer on the prowl and she believes she can use her unique insect-controlling ability to track him down.


My wife remembered watching this movie when she was younger and how scary it was (at least when she was a kid). I was intrigued and, when I found I could get it on DVD through Netflix, decided to add it to my list.

We ended up watching the movie last night. Unfortunately, while I think this film had some potential, I wound up being disappointed by what ended up being a surprisingly dull film.

I'll start out by saying the movie did have some things going for it. For one, while I'm not usually a fan of Connelly's earlier performances (she always comes off as a bit whiny), I thought she did reasonably well in this film and was somewhat believable as a troubled and misunderstood student.

I also thought the creepier scenes were decent, especially when it involved something that was visually shocking (such as one of the characters purposely breaking his hand). And, while there was some gore, it wasn't the central focus of the film, something that would normally detract from a movie.

I think my biggest problem with this movie is the writers never really took full advantage of Connelly's character's bug-controlling abilities. That, in itself, could have made a great movie, especially if she continued to use them in a Carrie-like fashion. However, the movie inexplicably makes that more of a side story and chooses to, instead, focus on her hunt for the serial killer. And, unfortunately, that ended up being kind of predictable and boring.

As a result of that, I found I had a really hard time staying awake while watching this. And, that's never a good sign when it comes to horror films/thrillers.

Final Opinion

Had the movie spent more time focusing on and developing the bug-control twist, I think it would have been much more memorable. Because that isn't the focus, the movie just isn't as good as it could have been and is, at best, an average (and not memorable) thriller.

My Grade: C

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Updated: 01/14/2017, StevenHelmer
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