The Spanish paranormal horror film “Phenomena,” or “Fenomena,” is a cinematic take on the real Hepta Group, a band of paranormal investigators in Spain formed in 1987 and still working after over three decades. The film picks up the group’s activity on one particular case in which a haunted antique store causes fatal damage to the founder, Father Pilon, and the rest of the group has to investigate the matter. Although “Phenomena” does not ever get too serious and always maintains a tone of comic humor, there are still chilling moments to make the film an entertaining watch.
‘Phenomena’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Set in the city of Madrid in 1998, the film begins with Father Pilon walking into a café that serves as the meeting place for the Hepta Group, where the team usually comes together to discuss cases. As the Father goes over the files of the members, we are introduced to these individuals one after another. First is a professor and theorist of mathematics, Gerardo Plana, who is unfortunately caught up in some delegate work at the department where he teaches. To make up for his absence, Gerardo sends a student of his, Pablo Marimon, as an intern to join the group in this investigation. Next is Sagrario, a middle-aged woman who is inexplicitly concerned about her growing age and wants to hold on to her youth. The woman is also a staunch believer in the supernatural, still hoping that her dead husband Carlos would contact her through some paranormal means. In fact, Sagrario once hired the help of the Hepta Group to establish a connection with her husband after his passing. But this had not worked out, and Sagrario had become a member of the group since then, still not giving up hope of reuniting with Carlos.
Paz is perhaps the oldest of the members in the Hepta Group, except for the senior Father, and she mostly handles the documenting part of the paranormal investigations, keeping written and video records of whatever bizarre goes on during their cases. In her personal life, Paz enjoys a domestic life with her many grandchildren and only comes down to the café to answer Father Pilon’s call. Lastly, Gloria is also quite concerned with the fact that she has crossed the age of fifty and is still not very settled in life. With an intention to set her life straight, Gloria plans on leaving the Hepta Group and becoming a practicing pharmacist while also searching for a life partner. But such a transition is not easy for the woman because of the fact that she is naturally talented in clairvoyance and being a medium between the real and spirit worlds.
Since Gloria does not join the meeting on this particular evening, the group calls it a night, and each goes their separate ways. However, Father Pilon is clearly very concerned with the matter of the haunted antique store, and he decides to give the place another visit by himself. Here he meets with the caretaker of the building, who then opens up the antique store for the Father. The man walks through the store, trying to find any unnatural occurrences, but finds none. As he is about to give up on his search, though, Father Pilon is suddenly attacked by a demonic entity, who chokes him and leaves him gravely injured. After the caretaker finds Father Pilon and he is taken to the hospital, the Hepta Group comes together once more, this time deciding that they must investigate the antique store to understand what had happened to their beloved Father.
Who Was Causing The Hauntings At The Antique Store?
As Sagrario, Paz, Gloria, and Pablo drive over to the antique store, they read up on a historical report of the place prepared by their colleague Gerardo. The plot of land on which the building with the antique store stands used to be the site of a rectory back in the 16th century, which tragically burned down in 1538. An Italian trader had then bought the land and built a house on it for his family, and it was this property that had then existed for centuries and was then modernized. In the recent past, too, the building had a sinister event associated with it: a tenant living in the basement of the building had bludgeoned a neighbor to death in 1989. In fact, this neighbor who had been killed was actually the late husband of the building’s caretaker, who still lives at the place along with her young daughter Susanita. During the group’s investigation of the store, they are also accompanied by the couple who owns it, Enrique and Marisa. While the search does not immediately turn up any unnatural activity, small discrepancies like misplaced items do get noticed. However, gradually into the evening, the presence of a supernatural entity is made very clear as Enrique gets possessed and tries to harm himself as well as the three women. In his possessed trance, the man says that the women are sure to get judged by someone, before his body is left behind. Marissa has to rush her husband to the hospital.
Even though young Pablo has been trying to find the logical and scientific reasons behind each of the occurrences, the very last events do change his mind. However, during a session on the Ouija board, it is revealed that Pablo has some paranormal qualities about him too. The three veteran women decide that it would not be safe for the young man to stay at the place until he is in full control of his supposed qualities and therefore send him home. From here on, it is only Sagrario, Paz, and Gloria who conduct the investigation, and as part of their search, they set up a camera at the antique store to understand what is happening inside.
Meanwhile, the three women go out for a drink, and a disagreement in their personal relations takes center stage. Despite being colleagues and probably even friends for so long, Sagrario and Gloria do not have the best of relations. When Sagrario had first come looking for a connection with her dead husband, Gloria had headed the case since she works as a medium. Despite Gloria’s claims that no connection with Carlos could be established in the spirit world, Sagrario believed that Gloria had intentionally failed at the job so that the woman would stick with the group. Sagrario now also reveals that she knows about Gloria’s intentions of leaving the group, and the latter is left bitter after this conversation. Gloria also leaves for her home, meaning that only Sagrario and Paz are now left.
Back at the antique store, both Sagrario and Paz find out in their own ways that something strange is up with the caretaker woman, for there is evidence of her regularly hurting her daughter Susanita. It is Sagrario who bravely tries to rescue the girl from her home, but the treacherous mother is alerted by now and intends to kill the woman. Paz, who sees the woman hit Susanita in the video footage captured by her camera, now enters the flat and tries to help her friend rescue the girl. But the evil mother finds out about this and stops the plan in its tracks. She then pounces upon Sagrario and is about to stab her to death when Gloria suddenly turns up at the scene and saves her friend. It is possible that Gloria had learned of this danger to her friends through her supernatural ability and had then rushed in to help. Finally, as young Susanita is rescued and her evil, deranged mother is arrested by the police, the case seems to be over. Gloria claims that she was always of the belief that the antique store had nothing haunting about it and that every strange occurrence was being done by humans. The three friends now prepare to drive away from the place when Gloria realizes that she has left her crystal ball inside the store. As she returns to fetch it, Sagrario and Paz are shocked by her wails and cries, and the real paranormal now makes an appearance when the two reenter the antique store.
Why Was The Spirit Haunting The Antique Store? What Happens To Father Pilon?
When Sagrario and Paz return to the store, they cannot find Gloria anywhere until they come across the same mirrored wardrobe in front of which Father Pilon had been found hurt. Managing to push the furniture aside, the two women find a hole in the wall leading to a secret passageway. Wanting to find out more and rescue their friend, they now enter a room where Gloria is finally seen, but the woman is visibly in a trance as if possessed by some spirit. As it turns out, the spirit that has taken possession of the woman is the same one that had hurt Father Pilon, and it had a particular reason for doing so as well. Throughout the runtime of “Phenomena,” there is mention of an earlier case that the group had worked on at a place called the Vergara Palace. Although they had presumably found the real perpetrator in this case, Gloria had failed to drive the evil spirit away, and the entity instead lived on in the real mortal world. This spirit was that of a priest named Manuel Isidro Sarmiento, who had died in the fire at his rectory in 1538, which was built at the same spot as the antique store. During his lifetime, Manuel Sarmiento used to initially live at Vergara Palace before he was sent away to a smaller rectory because of his habit of performing witch-hunts. In fact, Sarmiento’s was the same spirit that had stopped Gloria from solving the case back at Vergara Palace, and now he was still vengeful against the group.
Manuel Sarmiento was in fierce competition with his rival witch-hunter, Pierre de Lancre, who was an actual judge and witch-hunter in history. It was Sarmiento’s dream to surpass the total number of women that Pierre de Lancre had killed for being witches, and his own figure was just three short of his rival’s. Therefore, now after his death, the spirit of Sarmiento still wants to kill the three women of the Hepta Group and surpass his rival’s tally. The reason Sarmiento is fixated on killing only Gloria, Sagrario, and Paz is that they fought against him earlier at Vergara Palace, and the priest wanted his revenge. After settling at this antique store, he would take control of people like the caretaker woman to perform supernatural occurrences. The murder committed by the tenant in the basement also seems to be the work of Manuel Sarmiento, as he had probably taken control of the man to make him commit violent acts. The reason why the priest’s spirit had been doing all this was to grab the attention of Father Pilon, for he knew that his targeted three women would also come along with the Father.
When Father Pilon finally reached the antique store alone to investigate, he was attacked by Sarmiento’s spirit, just as the evil priest had planned. This then brought the three women to investigate the place, and therefore he was on the way to fulfilling his intentions. However, in the end, Father Pilon appears inside the conscience of Gloria, encouraging the woman to fight against Sarmiento. He tells Gloria to act as a medium between Sarmiento and himself, and once the woman does so, Father Pilon sacrifices himself to save Gloria’s life. As Gloria returns to her true self, Sagrario also makes a sacrifice—by using the belt worn by her dead husband, which she had always kept with her and worn after his death. Sagrario uses this belt to clear out their way of escape, and she lets go of the belt once and for all. When the three women reunite with their colleague Gerardo at their café, the latter announces the passing of Father Pilon. The revered Father had indeed sacrificed his own life to save Gloria and the others. In the end, Sagrario also lets go of the memory of her husband Carlos and now opens up to the café owner and server, Jesus, who had always been interested in her.
Mid-Credits Scene Explained
“Phenomena” ends with a scene of the Hepta Group members laughing away as they decide to stay together and keep working on paranormal investigations. The film then also goes on to show a mid-credits scene where a supernatural occurrence takes place at the café, in which several glasses strangely fall off the shelves and shatter, except for just one, which remains on the shelf. Looking at all this, Jesus is first stunned, and then his face breaks into a small smile, which can be perceived in two ways. While it can mean that the man is himself now part of some paranormal activities, Jesus’ smile can also mean that he is pleased that a supernatural occurrence at his café will bring the Hepta Group for investigation, which would also include Sagrario, the woman he is dearly interested in.