Aenigma Film Details
Overview: The spirit of a comatose teenage girl possesses the body of a newcomer to her girls boarding school to enact bloody revenge against the elitist, lingerie-clad coeds responsible for her condition.
Tagline: They made a clown out of Kathy once too often!
Review: When Italian gore-man Lucio Fulci directed his infamous quartet of zombie movies (ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, THE BEYOND, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY), he got something right. Something clicked and these films became classics to the sweaty collector of video nasties, even if they were classics for all the wrong reasons, but of course there is always something irresistible about watching actors covered in flour eating people. However, ever since then, Fulci churned out bad film after bad film, and the magic just wasn’t there anymore. AENIGMA is one of Fulci’s lesser items, a diabolical mixture of the then current slasher trend (something we now view with contempt) with some vague, insubstantial supernatural overtones. AENIGMA begins predictably, with a school prank going wrong (bringing to mind Cropsy’s accidental burning in, er, THE BURNING), leaving a strange, bug-eyed girl in a coma. Forget CARRIE, this girl is seriously weird! Just her appearance is enough to send shivers down my spine. From the hospital bed she directs violence (think PATRICK) to those all around her, possessing a ‘beautiful’ girl and then murdering off the perpetrators of the prank one by one in a string of absurd death scenes. The plot also manages to drag in the setting of SUSPIRIA too, although the girl’s school here lacks the atmospheric terror that filled Argento’s movie. While Argento filled his school with frightening claustrophobia and nightmarish suspense, Fulci fills his with bad hairdos and horrendous dialogue. Bookended by bad pop songs (although there is a small bit of nice organ music), full of incredibly cheesy clichéd dialogue of the “what a hunk” kind (all delivered straight-faced, and all the more funny for it) and a prime example of bad film-making – in one instance the screen goes black for more than five seconds in between different scenes, which gives you some idea of the general incompetence all round. The acting is uniformly bad, and nobody, nobody registers on the sympathy scale (always a bad sign, I mean there aren’t even any animals to sympathise with here). The only amusing person is the ‘retarded’ cleaner who bears an uncanny similarity to Martha from THE BEYOND, although I’m sure that’s only coincidental. One ageing bloke is apparently irresistible to the girls, once again distancing this film from reality as far as possible. As usual with these kind of bad pictures, the variety of death scenes is the only reason worth watching this film for. Well, that is if you have to watch it, as it’s an experience I wouldn’t recommend unless you’re a really big fan of horror films and you know what to expect with this one. A gym instructor is killed when his reflection comes out of the mirror in a startlingly original moment (although this brings back horrifying memories of the previous year’s AEROBICIDE, and was actually done better in EVIL DEAD 2), while another bloke goes THE BOGEY MAN route of being decapitated by a window (a sight that always cracks me up – seeing an actor with his head stuck through a window, and then the next second a bouncing, rubbery thing which is supposed to be that same guy’s bonce bouncing around outside!). A girl falls a short distance and apparently breaks her body, while a doctor has a dream about having sex with a young girl, and then being bitten and scratched to death by her in probably the most hard to stomach moment of the film (literally encapsulating the mix of sex and violence prevalent in the modern horror movie). In another dream sequence, a girl finds her dorm full of decapitated corpses, while in the most artistic moment of the entire thing, a lost girl in a museum is strangled by a statue which comes to life. Before this, we see a priceless painting bleeding, and this moment is the one, true, creative image in the whole film. The standout death this time around though (obviously inspired by the spider attack in THE BEYOND) is death by snails, totally ludicrous of course, but definitely a first. A girl, asleep on her bed, is enveloped by the sticky slimy snails, and there is something deeply unpleasant with this attack, as it pushes much the same buttons as SQUIRM and SLUGS. Unfortunately, this is the one so-bad-it’s-good moment in a mediocre, below average movie. If you want a good Fulci film then go for a zombie one – after all, at least he was liberal with those guys. And don’t ask me what the hell the title means either – I have absolutely no idea!
Country: Italy, Yugoslavia
Language: English, Italian
Duration: 85 min
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Romance
Also known as: Aenigma,Ænigma,Тайна,Internado diabólico (Aenigma),Dämonia,Энигма,Internado diabólico,Enigma do Pesadelo,L’énigme,En las garras del diablo,Enigma