Halloween Countdown: Phenomena

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(In anticipation of the coolest day of the year, this month-long series will offer one recommended horror flick a day up through Oct. 31.)

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PHENOMENA (1985). Even folks who don't generally like movies that can broadly be categorized as "gore" or "slasher" flicks should be able to get a kick out of the works of Dario Argento, the Italian filmmaker whose oeuvre has inspired countless budding filmmakers and thrilled audiences held captive by his mastery behind the lens. Phenomena represents as good a starting point as any. In between her film debut in 1984's Once Upon a Time in America and her breakthrough role in 1986's Labyrinth (and long before her Oscar-winning performance in 2001's A Beautiful Mind), 14-year-old Jennifer Connelly toplined this absolutely loopy yarn in which a lonely American student at a Swiss boarding school is revealed to possess a strange hold over all insects. Can she use her powers to catch the serial killer who's been bloodily offing the school's nubile young girls? Formerly making the rounds under the moniker Creepers (and usually in an edited version), this engaging oddity — Argento's favorite of all his own films — also finds room for a heroic, razor-wielding chimpanzee, a deformed kid who bears an eerie resemblance to Chucky, and veteran actor Donald Pleasence as a kindly entomologist prone to making grandiloquent declarations about bugs.

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