Aenigma (DVD)

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Aenigma (DVD)

Ugly and awkward, Kathy is the victim of a cruel trick played by snobbish students at her school. In tears she runs away, not seeing the car approachi...

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Review of "Aenigma (DVD)"

published 20/03/2017 | hogsflesh
Member since : 19/04/2010
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About me :
Not for me
Pro Barely anything
Cons The story, the effects, the acting
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Even the blood looks unconvincing

Even the blood looks unconvincing

This is a film-only review, mainly because my chances of getting ciao to add the Blu-ray are precisely zero. It has recently been released on Blu-ray by 88 Films, and will set you back around £13 in HMV, possibly slightly less on amazon. (And as an aside, wouldn’t it be more useful if ciao included amazon and HMV prices in its search results for DVD and Blu-ray products? I’d hazard a guess they’re used more than and Zavvi.)

This is a late 80s effort from Italian horror director Lucio Fulci. His late 70s / early 80s zombie movies, especially Zombie Flesh Eaters and The Beyond, are genuinely impressive, if a little silly round the edges. But after about 1983, the quality of Fulci’s work dipped drastically, as low budgets began to take their toll. Aenigma, sadly, is no exception – it was an Italian / Yugoslav co-production, and at least made it into cinemas, unlike a lot of Fulci’s late work. But it’s still crap.

Year: 1987
Director: Lucio Fulci
More information at:
IMDB user rating: 4.8

At a posh girls’ school in Boston, an unpopular girl, Kathy, is left in a coma after a prank goes horribly wrong. But she somehow manages to possess the body of new girl Eva, using her to get revenge on the kids who tormented her (or as many of them as the budget will allow). The murders are all supernatural, so it’s not really clear why Kathy needs Eva’s body at all. Eva also starts an affair with the doctor treating Kathy, because apparently doctors in Boston see nothing wrong with having sex with schoolgirls.

To be fair to the doctor, this is one of those girls’ schools that only exist in horror movies, where all the pupils appear to be in their mid-20s. And the teachers all look ridiculously young – I initially assumed the headmistress was a prefect or something. There only seem to be – at most – 20 girls in the entire school. They’re all in the same class, and all look as if their teenaged years are an increasingly remote memory.

Anyway, this is derivative of a number of other films, most obviously The Medusa Touch, with bits of Carrie and Argento’s Phenomena thrown in. This need not be a problem in itself – Italian exploitation had some of its greatest triumphs ripping off better-known films – but Aenigma doesn’t bring much to the table, apart from the chance to ogle some young ladies doing aerobics. Fulci’s trademark splatter gore is nowhere to be seen (the films gets away with a 15 certificate). His good films bludgeon the audience with squelchy horror and amazingly unpleasant sound effects. Aenigma… well, just doesn’t.

The one death scene that is somewhat reminiscent of Fulci’s bad-taste heyday is when a topless girl is smothered to death by live snails (why she doesn’t just get up and brush the slimy little critters off is anyone’s guess). It’s quite a grim scene, if only because the poor actress really does have live snails crawling all over her, including her face. (Fulci has gained the reputation of not always having been very nice to his actresses.) The problem is, it’s also a really dumb scene – presumably some kind of magic is stopping her just getting up and leaving, but the film never specifies.

All the deaths are supernatural, and the film’s budget simply isn’t up to having people lunging out of mirrors or statues coming alive. A series of potentially good ideas are ruined by cack-handed execution. Someone’s eyes glowing red (something which is never even remotely explained) is done by freeze-framing the image and putting red dots over the actor’s eyes. And unable to afford a helicopter to do a panning shot, Fulci uses some terribly obvious cardboard buildings and asks us to believe they’re genuine exteriors.

The music is quite standard late-80s fare – heavy on the synthesisers and electric guitars. You yearn for the unearthly howling of Fulci’s earlier work (and you get it in one scene, where suddenly the soundtrack comes alive with profoundly creepy moans. This might have been a lift from an older film – Fulci’s later work frequently throws in clips from his other films of the same period. His only enjoyable late 80s film, Cat in the Brain, is basically a montage of death scenes from other films). The opening and closing credits are graced with a truly ghastly song about young love, evidently called ‘Head Over Heels’, although the opening credits spell it ‘Head over Meels’, which shows how much attention anyone was paying.

Many of the cast are obscure, presumably being young Yugoslav actors. Fulci himself has a cameo as a police inspector (he almost always sticks himself in his films somewhere) – he looks gaunt and unwell. Eva is in a few other Italian horror flicks. The only actor I recognised was Jared Martin, playing sleazy Dr Anderson. Apparently he was in Dallas, but I recognise him from Fulci’s earlier, and much more enjoyable, post-apocalypse action movie New Gladiators. All his hospital scenes look like they were shot in a single afternoon (he never changes his clothes), but later on he gets to sleaze out, seducing schoolgirls like nobody’s business. Apart from Eva, he has an affair with another girl, and it’s strongly hinted he’s also slept with a third girl. Lucky these ‘schoolgirls’ are all so obviously over 18, otherwise it might make Dr Anderson difficult to root for…

It seems like Anderson is meant to be the hero, although it’s hard to tell. I’ve no idea who I’m meant to care about if not him. The second girl he hooks up with is perhaps the heroine, as she’d previously been a bit less nasty than the other girls, but it’s impossible to care. The entire doctor/romance subplot feels tacked on to bring the film up to 90 minutes. The thing we’re meant to be interested in – the supposedly horrific death scenes – are not just lame, but also few and far between.

I’m not sure there’s anything to recommend this movie. I was mildly amused by the PE teacher, who slaps his pupils’ bottoms, flirts with them shamelessly, is complicit in the prank that almost kills Kathy, and has evidently had sex with almost all the girls at the school. But they don’t actually look much younger than he does, so any blackly comic or transgressive charge is lost.

But really, when you’re looking to a sleazy PE teacher for your kicks, you’re probably watching the wrong film. Fulci in his prime was a force to be reckoned with, an alternative to the excessively mannered horror films of Argento or Mario Bava. But when he went off the boil, his films started to suck. And Aenigma truly, truly sucks.

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Comments on this review

  • Pointress published 17/04/2017
    looks most unpleasant by the photo
  • IzzyS published 30/03/2017
    Good review.
  • siberian-queen published 28/03/2017
    one to avoid
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Product Information : Aenigma (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Ugly and awkward, Kathy is the victim of a cruel trick played by snobbish students at her school. In tears she runs away, not seeing the car approaching. In a coma at the local hospital, Kathy is dying. But her spirit is determined to get revenge, in the most horrific way...


Listed on Ciao since: 01/11/2005