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Phenomena (1985) – Episode 168 – Decades of Horror 1980s

“We call them the eight squadrons of death. First, comes the common fly. Lays its eggs in the rotting corpse and thus the cycle begins.” Leave it to Donald Pleasence to deliver a line like that. Join your faithful Grue-Crew – Bill Mulligan, Chad Hunt, Crystal Cleveland, and Jeff Mohr –  as they survive another trip inside the mind of Dario Argento by way of Phenomena (1985).

Decades of Horror 1980s
Episode 168 – Phenomena (1985)

A young girl, with an amazing ability to communicate with insects, is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.


Take Dario Argento’s third film in the 1980s, the second film in Jennifer Connelly’s career, add Daria Nicolodi and Donald Pleasence and what do you get? The answer is Phenomena, not the best but certainly not the worst of Argento’s films. Phenomena features a chimpanzee as a key character and Bill reveals his well-founded fear of chimpanzees. On the other hand, Jeff really dug the image of the chimpanzee wielding a shiny straight razor and bearing its teeth with glee. Chad says he rented the videocassette of Phenomena for no other reason than it included music by Iron Maiden and Motörhead. On the other hand, Crystal thought the music by Motörhead and Iron Maiden doesn’t fit and pulled her out of the film. All hands agree that Phenomena is definitely worth a watch.

We learned of Daria Nicolodi’s passing after the recording of this episode and before it was scheduled to be published. During the episode, Bill Mulligan emphatically proclaims his love for her as an actor and a writer. We will most assuredly have much more to say about her in the future.

As of this writing, Phenomena is available to stream on Shudder and Amazon Prime, and as physical media on a Blu-ray from Synapse Films.   

Every two weeks, Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror 1980s podcast will cover another horror film from the 1980s. The next episode’s film, chosen by Crystal, will be Pumpkinhead (1988), directed by Stan Winston and starring Lance Henrickson.

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Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long-time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an Old Boy. Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for and SQ Horror Magazine. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is a co-host of the Decades of Horror podcasts - The Classic Era, 1970s, and 1980s - and the Gruesome Magazine Podcast.