March 2, 2023 Phenomena (Two-Disc 4K UHD Edition Review)
Dario Argento is a legend in the world of Horror cinema. A director who influenced the Horror genre in an extraordinary way during the ’70s and ’80s, his filmography is full of compelling titles. Of course, there is a most celebrated film, 1977’s Suspiria, but astute fans are well aware there is plenty more within the archives of Argento. To name a few, you have early classics such as 1971’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet, 1975’s Deep Red, 1980’s Inferno, and 1982’s Tenebrae. Then, a little later into the ’80s decade, Argento put out the less recognized Phenomena.
Originally released in Italy back in 1985, Phenomena featured a memorable cast headlined by American Actress Jennifer Connelly (Labyrinth 1986, A Beautiful Mind 2001), beloved English Actor Donald Pleasence (Halloween 1978, Halloween II 1981), but also former Argento partner, the late, great Daria Nicolodi (Deep Red, Suspiria). Together they united in a film that utilized the unmistakable, artistic filming style of Argento, matched along with a killer soundtrack that featured sounds from regular contributor Goblin, but tracks like Iron Maiden’s “Flash of the Blade.” In the end, the film was panned by critics… but is still appreciated by fans.
In the North American market some may have seen the film renamed as Creepers; released under this name after being purchased for distribution in the United States by New Line Cinema, but also edited down over 20 minutes from the original cut. That said, since the dawn of home video, the film was first released on Beta as Creepers in ’86, but then made available on DVD as Phenomena in the early 2000s, and Blu-ray in as well. In truth, there are quite a few releases of Phenomena floating around the DVD/Blu-Ray market. Adding to it all, Phenomena made its way to 4K thanks to Arrow Video February of 2022. A limited edition set, you can probably pick up a copy on eBay, but by and large, it is pretty hard to find at this point, plus rather pricey. However, if you are interested in acquiring Phenomena in 4K, now is your chance, because Synapse Films brings it to format on March 14, 2023.
Some are probably thinking – wait, so there are now two 4K editions of Phenomena out there from two separate distributors… which one do I buy? Well, that is really up to the individual, but based on looking at all the specs, the transfers are pretty much identical. Yes, the Arrow Video release packaging is more compelling, and it features some nice photographs, but comparing apples to apples, there is not all too much of a difference here. So, unless you are really itching for the limited Arrow Films edition, you are no less of an Argento lover if you pick up the currently more accessible forthcoming Synapse Films release in its place.
This dilemma resolved, let us dig right into what the Synapse Films edition offers. You either have the standard Two-Disc 4K UHD Edition of Phenomena, or the 6000-piece limited edition boxed set with poster, lobby carts, and linear notes. These extra in mind, when you pop open the case you get two 4K UHD discs – disc one the original 116-minute Italian version of Phenomena; disc two the edited, international version, plus the US version under the title Creepers. Nice to see they are separated into two separate discs; all three versions of the film are transferred into 4K and look quite lovely. In fact, you would receive no argument that these are the best transfer of Phenomena on any format to date.
Which leads us to the bonus material on each disc. For disc one you get a list of interviews with cast as well as crew. For disc two you get audio commentaries associated with the international version, as well as a visual essay from Arrow Films Producer Michael Mackenzie comparing the different cuts of Phenomena. Both fitting bonuses, all in all, it completes the set nicely. In the end, the 4K release of Phenomena is a win in terms of transfer quality and combining all the versions of the film into one nice, neat package. That is why Cryptic Rock gives each edition, including the standard Two-Disc 4K UHD Edition of Phenomena from Synapse Films, 4 out of 5 stars.