Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Kettle of Weird Flies

Joss Whedon to-day pointed out several aspects of a prospective Romney presidency I hadn't considered.

Speaking of Joss Whedon, it was based on his recommendation, quoted in this article at io9 that I watched last night's horror film, a 1985 Dario Argento movie called Phenomena. Whedon said;

That movie is so ridiculously chock-full of horror: There are terrible murders, Jennifer Connelly just happens to have control over insects, there's a crazy person living nearby. By the time you get to the monkey with a razor blade [who saves Connelly's life], you're just like, Oh my God! If you look at Cabin in the Woods, you can see the influence of "Oh, you mean we can just never stop coming up with stuff?"

It's actually a chimpanzee with a razor blade, but I'm with Whedon in admiring the awesomely off the rails quality of this movie. He didn't even mention the Bee Gees girl.

Any description of any aspect of this movie is going to feature multiple points of "what the fuck". Here goes; Jennifer Connelly plays the daughter of an Italian movie star and as the movie opens, she's arriving in Switzerland to attend a girl's boarding school named after Richard Wagner (yes, Der Ring des Nibelungen Richard Wagner). She has an instinctive sympathy for insects, as we observe early on when she befriends a bee. She later describes her connexion to insects as part of her schizophrenia, which also causes sleep walking.

"But what about the chimpanzee?!" you ask. I'm getting to that.

Connelly's sleep walking has her walking dangerously along the roof of the Richard Wagner school to an abandoned part of the campus where she witnesses a girl being murdered with a steel spear. Oh, yes, there's a serial killer on the loose unrelated to anything else.

To track the killer, for no apparent reason local detectives have called on the expertise of a world renowned entomologist played from a wheelchair by Donald Pleasence with a Scottish accent. The chimpanzee is his nurse.

So--a girl who talks to insects and an entomologist? Well, it all makes sense now, doesn't it?

The insects worship her, she doesn't just talk to them. When she's in distress, swarms of flies appear and tear apart those who threaten her.

Pleasence decides to send her alone with a Sarcophagus fly to track down the killer.

The freedom with which this movie goes from one moment to the next is sort of breathtaking. I'm just giving you the broad strokes--there are so many little moments of weird. There's the brain scan the headmistress forces Connelly to undergo after her first sleep walk, there's the score which uses metal bands like Iron Maiden and Motorhead almost at random, including during a scene where Connelly's trying to lift a telephone with a metal pole through the window at the top of a door.

There's the fact that when she shows up at the girl's school, Connelly's only option for a meal is some baby food left accidentally by her roommate's family. Does it symbolise her character's innocence? Maybe. It could be seen as a story of a misfit girl's difficulty assimilating to a hostile and unimaginative world, which is something reflected in the killer's identity. The chimpanzee, too, is a figure of innocence, as are the insects. I don't know. I only know this movie really made me smile.

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