I’ve heard people describe Lucio Fulci’s 1987 flick Aenigma as “lesser Fulci.” Until recently I had not seen it, but I went into my viewing with this mindset – Fucli is like pizza, even bad pizza is still pizza. After watching the film, courtesy of a new Blu-ray from England’s 88 Films, my thoughts are that you can call it lesser Fulci if you want, but I’m calling it awesome. I love love love love love love love this movie. I just love it. It has a charm that I’ll never be able to explain, but I have to stress that it’s there.
Aenigma opens with Kathy (Milijana Zirojevic) putting on makeup as she gets ready for a big date. Two friends are assisting her as she tries on different clothes looking for the perfect outfit. This whole sequence is guided by a wonderful Hall & Oates-esque song called “Head Over Heels” (miscredited as “Head Over Meels”) by Douglas Meakin. The song is something else and I’ve included it down below for your listening pleasure.
Once Kathy is ready she rushes out to meet her date who takes her to some secluded area so the two can make out. As the two begin to go at Kathy goes on and on about how she’s dreamed of this day. What Kathy doesn’t realize is that she’s been recorded and there are about 4 or 5 other cars full of kids from her college listening nearby, laughing at her. The whole thing was a big prank, which explains Kathy’s makeup, and soon the kids reveal themselves and laugh in Kathy’s face. Kathy runs off in embarrassment but the others chase after her. The chase ends with Kathy being struck by a car and knocked into a coma.
Fast forward to a few days later and new girl, Eva (Lara Lamberti), is starting school at the college. Eva makes it clear from the start that she’s a bit of a bad girl and her only goal is to hook up with as many boys as possible. She begins to meet all of the people that played the prank on Kathy and one by one they begin to die.
Pretty quickly we realize there is some sort of connection between Eva and Kathy, but the details are a little murky. Every time one of her tormenters dies, Kathy has an emotional reaction despite being basically brain dead.
Aenigma is an appropriately titled film. The plot of them film plays out as a sort of supernatural mystery but the film itself is so oddball that trying to describe what it is exactly is a bit of a mystery. The overall premise seems to rip off Carrie quite a bit but there are dashes of other films, mainly Argento’s Suspiria. So you could describe as Carrie meets Suspiria but even that isn’t a fully accurate portrayal.
The film isn’t nearly as gory as what we’ve come to expect from Fulci, though there is still a fair amount of blood and gross out scenes, but a number of other Fulci elements are still very much present. Most notably the pacing of the film and the overall way it was shot. It’s very remensicent of other Fulci works, particularly of that period in the 80’s.
My favorite thing about Aenigma is how hard it tries to come off as an American film. The film was shot in Yugoslavia and features mostly actors from the country along with Italians but the film takes place in Boston at a made-up college named St. Mary’s. The film takes every opportunity to tell you that it takes place in Boston too. Virtually every character wears a sweater or shirt that reads “St. Mary’s Boston.” This same info can also be seen on multiple doors and signs throughout.
The best stuff though is the way the girls’ dorm rooms are decorated. They’re desperately trying to look like a young American’s room. One girl has a poster of an American flag with an eagle on it. Other girls have posters of James Dean, Snoopy, Yoda (encouraging you to read) and Tom Cruise from Top Gun. I would guess that there is no way they got the rights to show any of these posters either which makes it all the more special. The Tom Cruise posters is the best because they focus in on it multiple times and in one scene it sort of plays a key role.
The 88 Films Blu-ray is one of my favorite releases from 88 Films. The transfer, a brand new HD 2K master from the original camera negative, looks gorgeous which is no surprise because 88 has really nailed down their transfers. There is only one special feature, aside from a trailer and Italian opening and closing credits, but it’s a good one in the form of the feature length documentary Aenigma: Fulci and the 80s. This features interviews with a bunch of Fulci collaborators with names like Claudio Fragasso, Antonio Bido, Michele de Angelis and more popping up to share their thoughts on Fulci. It’s a fascinating look at the man who was pretty notorious for being rather difficult to work with on set. A number of people touch on that aspect but at the end of the day everyone had tremendous admiration and respect for legendary Fulci.
Aenigma may not be what we’ve all come to expect from The Godfather of Gore but that hardly matters. It’s a terrifically fun movie that is going to work it’s way into my regular rotation.
Aenigma is now available on region B Blu-ray from 88 Films.
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