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The daughter of a famous American movie star Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) is sent to Switzerland to board at an exclusive school. She is told by her room-mate that a serial killer is at large. Everyone is terrified but perhaps even scarier are the cruel headmistress and her creepy assistant, Frau Bruckner (Daria Nicolodi). A habitual sleepwalker, Jennifer stumbles upon a crippled entomologist who is being nursed by his loyal companion, Inga, a chimpanzee. Dr John MacGregor (Donald Pleasence) is helping police with their investigation into the murders and Jennifer's affinity with insects proves useful. But until the case is solved there is further death and disappearance; Inga suffers a terrible trauma and Jennifer is confronted with unspeakable horror.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Italian Dario Argento built a reputation on scaring us half to death...or at least trying to. In Suspiria (1976) he succeeded, but Inferno (1978) and Creepers suggest that the King Of Spaghetti Slasher flicks often flails about with a blunt razor. Argento films typically have oodles of style; an absence of substance and are marked by a series of shocking set-pieces that have little to do with the central story. Creeper begins with the pre-credit murder of a lost tourist (Argento's own daughter, Fiore!) that is especially grisly.

The poor girl loses her head which turns up, ridden with maggots on the work-bench of eminent entomologist Dr MacGregor, but the rest of her corpse is missing and presumed still in the company of her killer. Meanwhile the daughter of a famed American movie star arrives at a snooty private girl's school and demonstrates her affinity with insects: fondling bees and in communion with a pair of loving ladybirds. The hideous headmistress (in fact, the very beautiful Dalila Di Lazzaro) and her creepy assistant Frau Bruckner believe that this sleepwalking American girl is crazy. "She's not normal; she's diabolic," one says. And she goes further, insisting that Jennifer is "Beelzebub," aka "the devil; lord of the flies." MacGregor gets wind of this and introduces Jennifer to "The Great Sarcophagus Fly," which lives exclusively off dead bodies and, it's said, will lead Jennifer directly to the killer's lair.

Despite Argento bankrolling a battery of credited bug experts, it seems there is no such blowie as the aforementioned buzzer. And one wonders if Jennifer is really cut out for this kind of detective work, following the fly to the house of horrors but then being frightened off by a balding realtor. The plot lurches from one bit of nonsense to the next while the soundtrack explodes inexplicably into raucous rock and roll. Jennifer's room-mate disappears but no-one seems to care; Dr McGregor relies on a chimpanzee to administer his medicine and according to the sleepwalker "it's perfectly normal for insects to be slightly telepathic." Visually the film has some impressive moments, which makes it seem watchable but this, I suspect, has more to do with brevity (a version 20 minutes longer, known as Phenomena, also exists) than any brand of brilliance. And Argento isn't beyond a clutter of cliches...dark and stormy nights, doors that creak and slam mysteriously shut, restless dreams of endless corridors, wind rustling the trees and blowing the high hair of heroines dressed in billowing white robes.

You've seen them; you've heard them; you hate them and nothing diminishes movie magic more than mindless repetition. The acting is uniformly awful, except for Pleasence, in the wake of the no way inferior Halloweens, and now a dab hand at this kind of stuff. Consequently, you don't give a damn about any of the characters...but I did hope that Inga the chimp got out of it alive and I did have feelings for that bogus crime-buster, the Sarcophagus fly.

Published May 12, 2005

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(Italy, 1984)

CAST: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi

DIRECTOR: Dario Argento

SCRIPT: Franco Ferrini

RUNNING TIME: 73 minutes

PRESENTATION: Aspect Ratio 4.3. Dolby digital



DVD RELEASE: March 1, 2005

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