Aenigma (1987)
By: CJ on September 29, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Image (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 1.0. 85 minutes
The Movie
Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Jared Martin, Lara Naszinski, Ulli Reinthaler, Sophie d'Aulan, Jennifer Naud, Milijana Zirojevic
Screenplay: Lucio Fulci, Giorgio Mariuzzo
Country: Italy
AKA: Ænigma
Another of Fulci's lesser-known films finds it way onto DVD via this Image disc, as part of their Euroshock Collection. The story is pretty basic and is about a young girl called Cathy (Milijana Zirojevic) who has a prank played on her by the other students at the College she attends. In fleeing from her tormentors she is knocked down by a car and in hospital subsequently falls into a deep coma.

Deep in her comatose state she finds that she is able to transcend her physical body and possesses at will a new student at the school, Eva (Lara Naszinsky). Through Eva she is able to exact malevolent supernatural revenge upon those who tormented her. Through this premise Fulci is able to stage grisly and inventive set pieces, the most bizarre being death by snails. In fact, to be honest, this is probably the most bizarre death scene of any of Fulci's films, and earns the movie some novelty points on this set piece alone.

Throughout all this grisly mayhem there is also a sub-plot whereby Cathy by proxy through Eva falls in love with Dr Robert Anderson (did you follow that?) who also happens to be the doctor who is tending to Cathy in hospital. But he soon realises something is wrong and breaks off with her and starts seeing another girl from the College (what's wrong with this picture…middle aged man dating schoolgirls, and no-one bats an eyelid..?) which infuriates Cathy/Eva and precipitates her into trying to kill the doctor's new love. Of course she fails with the valiant doctor defending his new sweetheart, but it is ultimately Cathy's own mother who puts an end to her murderousness by pulling the plug on her life support machine. With mothers like that, who needs enemies..?

This is not one of Fulci's better efforts, not by a long chalk, but there is still plenty here to recommend it. There are some highly inventive death scenes and Fulci manages to direct just about well enough to pull the whole thing off reasonably effectively. Although cited as being a homage to Carrie, I felt it was closer to Patrick in tone and theme. Whichever movie it may draw its influence from, it certainly isn't an original idea and Fulci doesn't really direct with his usual enthusiasm. In fact his style here is more languid and fluid rather than the 'in your face' rapidity of films such as New York Ripper or The Beyond. Aenigma certainly isn't a bad film (definitely better than I expected it to be) but it's no masterpiece either. If you're a fan of Fulci or Italian horror cinema in general, then this is definitely worth picking up. However, if you're expecting over-the-top gore and splatter you'll be sorely disappointed.
Considering some of the stellar Fulci releases by Anchor Bay, this is a fairly poor offering from Image. The start of the film looks a bit scratchy and grainy but it does improve and becomes just about acceptable. The image is fairly sharp and vibrant but the colour balance is variable, it seems to lack consistency – and the image does tend to look a bit smeary. One does get the feeling that more care and attention could have been paid to restoring this film for DVD.
The sound is okay, but that's about it. Certainly no audio fireworks here. However, the music comes over well enough and the dialogue is crisp and clear for the most part. As mono tracks go this is about par for the course.
Extra Features
Extras? What extras? Image have done this disc a great disservice by not even providing the most basic of extra features, even a trailer would have been something. No marks for Image in this department whatsoever. There isn't even a main menu screen – when you put the DVD in the film simply starts playing and when it finishes you have a scene select screen. That's it.
The Verdict
As nice as it is to see this little-seen film on DVD it's a shame that so little care and attention has been paid to it. This seems to be Image just creating a shelf filler and caring very little for the actual quality of the disc. However, for Fulci fans it's an essential purchase and the transfer is just about acceptable. It's an enjoyable film though - and not nearly as bad as its reputation would suggest. That's only my opinion though, of course.
Movie Score
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