Dario Argento’s psychological horror, ‘Phenomena’ (1985), also known as ‘Creepers’, can be closely analyzed as a representation of the awakening anxieties that occur through the eyes of an adolescent. A peaking teenaged American girl played by actress Jennifer Connelly, moves to Switzerland to attend an all-girls boarding school unknowing that she has made herself a target to a murderer only killing girls at her school. Jennifer’s obscure and reciprocated love for insects and habit of sleep walking triggered a diagnosis of diabolical behavior from her school nurses, but to the neighborhood entomologist, Jennifer’s disability was seen an extraordinary gift with a potential to catch the murderer.
Argento’s association of a murderer targeting only young teenage girls to his subgenre of body-horror can be analyzed as the role of self-sabotage within the mind of an adolescent going through puberty. The rude awakenings of chemical changes to the brain combined with the inability to control one’s mutable bodily functions in both internal and external bodies bring fear, disgust, shame and apprehension to an adolescent’s inward and outward self.
The most interesting character to analyze in ‘Phenomena’ is the role of the handicapped entomologist, Donald Pleasance. Pleasance is the only character that recognizes Jennifer’s deviant telepathic ability to insects as a gift, and his character happens to be portrayed as outwardly kooky and physically handicapped. The close relationship of deviance to disability in ‘Phenomena’ questions the cultural appropriation of ‘abledness’. The role of the nurses as able subjects verses the role of the disabled entomologist could be analyzed as the psychological conflict that occurs within an adolescent’s mind – Self-acceptance verses self-sabotage. Jennifer’s battle of mastering her telepathic connection to insects in order to catch the murderer could be analyzed as mastering selfacceptance and overcoming self-sabotage.
Dario Argento’s ‘Phenomena’ recognizes the reflection of the human body to its psyche as its own worst enemy. The societal definitions of human ‘abledness’ conflict with the innate chemical changes that occur in both the internal and external part of the human body during puberty. This allows us to question, is the mind the body’s worst enemy, or is the body the mind’s worst enemy?
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