Having previously been available directly-only from Severin Films, Lucio Fulci’s 1987 horror film Ænigma is released widely on Blu-ray on August 25, 2020. Order via Amazon.com
Limited CD Soundtrack
Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films and Mondo-Digital.com’s Nathaniel Thompson
Writing Nightmares: Interview with Screenwriter Giorgio Mariuzzo
Italian Aenigma: Appraising Late Day Fulci
Here is our previous coverage of the movie:
Ænigma is a 1987 Italian-Yugoslavian supernatural horror feature film directed by Lucio Fulci (Zombie Flesh Eaters; City of the Living Dead; The Beyond; et al) from a screenplay co-written with Giorgio Mariuzzo. The movie stars Jared Martin, Lara Naszinski and Sophie D’Aulan. It was produced by Boro Banjac (as Boro Banjack) and Ettore Spagnuolo (Demonia).
St. Mary’s College, Boston, New England: Lonely pupil Kathy is an outcast at a boarding school who lands in a coma resulting from accidentally being hit by a car during a cruel practical joke against her by several of her tormentors.
A little later, Eva, a new arrival to the school, takes over Kathy’s old room and begins socializing with some of the girls responsible for Kathy’s condition. It transpires that Eva is a pawn under the control of the comatose Kathy from her hospital bed in seeing revenge against those who did her wrong, while Kathy’s physician, meets and begins dating Eva whom also targets his latest girlfriend…
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If there’s anything be learned from Aenigma …. well, actually, that might be giving the film too much credit. There’s probably nothing to learn from Aenigma. The film does start with a pretty cruel prank and that prank leads to some snail-related mayhem but really, you should have already learned the danger of pranks after Carrie burned down the prom.
The prank involves the cruel girls at St. Mary’s boarding school tricking their classmate, Kathy (Milijana Zirojevic), into thinking that she’s on a date with a gym teacher (Riccardo Acerbi) and then jumping out of the shadows and surprising her when Kathy and the teacher start making out in his car. This leads to a humiliated Kathy running out into the middle of traffic, where she’s promptly hit by a car and goes into a coma. While everyone agrees that sucks for Kathy, at least it means that no one will ever know the truth about the prank.
Then people start dying. They die in a variety of weird ways and since only the people involved with the prank are the ones being targeted, it doesn’t take much effort to guess that the comatose Kathy is probably involved. It also doesn’t take much effort to guess that the newest student at the school, Eva (Lara Lamberti), has been possessed by Kathy and is mostly just hanging around to make sure that everyone’s dead.
What’s weird is that, in her coma, Kathy has so many different powers that you have to wonder why exactly she needed to possess Eva. For instance, the gym teacher is strangled when his own reflection jumps out of a mirror. One of the girls is killed when a statue in a museum suddenly comes to life and attacks her. Yet another girl is somehow killed by snails.
Yes, you read that right. She wakes up to discover that she’s covered in snails and this leads to her death. Aenigma is regularly criticised for the scene with snails. “Why didn’t she just get out of bed and take a shower or something?” many a commentator has asked. I guess they have a point but, honestly, if I woke up and there were a few hundred snails on me, I would totally freak out.
Apparently, the main reason that Eva’s there is so she can try to seduce Kathy’s handsome doctor (Jared Martin) but the doctor is more interested in Jenny Clark (Ulli Reinthaler), who was involved in the prank but who, unlike everyone else, felt really bad about it afterwards. I’m sure that would lead to any complications….
There’s kind of a sad story behind this rather forgettable if occasionally entertaining horror film. After making horror history by directing notable films such as Zombi 2 and The Beyond, director Lucio Fulci had entered into a career decline. Struggling with ill-health and having had a falling out with some of his former collaborators, Fulci found himself working with lower budgets and less interesting premises. That’s certainly the case with Aenigma, which was shot in Sarajevo with a largely unknown cast and which blatantly ripped off the plots of Carrie and Patrick.
Aenigma has a terrible reputation among fans of Italian horror. Admittedly, it’s a very flawed film yet not quite as bad as some have made it out to be. Sure, the snails are ludicrous but their inclusion is also so weird you can’t help loving it when they show up. For that matter, the coach being killed by his own reflection and the scene where the statue come to life are clever ideas, even if their execution leaves something to be desired.
Even in his later years, Fulci still had talent. Unfortunately, when it came to films such as Aenigma, he rarely had the resources necessary to truly make his vision come to life.
Lisa Marie Bowman, MOVIES and MANIA – guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens
“In terms of sheer entertainment, however, the film simply flies by, feeling half the length of even some arguably better lesser Fulci efforts like Manhattan Baby. Its blend of eighties silliness and off-the-wall nastiness make Aenigma prime late-night viewing for Italian horror fans.” Anchorwoman in Peril
“Though girls are smothered by snails or crushed to death by an animated Greek statue, the horrors are mostly clumsy and familiar, involving shaky camerawork, unconvincing decapitations by window and hysterical overacting. The premise is stolen from Patrick (1978) and the overwhelmingly blue look borrowed from Phenomena…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“The effects and makeup do effectively create an eerie atmosphere. In particular, I’ll say that comatose Kathy resonates an aura of malice (as seen above), and anyone who is even slightly uncomfortable with bugs will be squirming at the slug scene. Though it is a far cry from one of Fulci’s greatest films, Aenigma is still certainly an entertaining watch.” Blood Sucking Geek
“So this is Fulci borrowing then; a cup of Carrie here, a pinch of Patrick there, sprinkled with some Jennifer to sweeten the pot. And while the glory gory days are not revisited, he does go in for a decapitation, self-strangulation, and in a weird move that could only come from his mind, death by snail (not the $5 a pop kind in a restaurant, fancy pants; these are your, well, garden variety). ” Daily Dead
“Anyway; this may be the oft-maligned “Later Period Fulci” but hot damn this flick is a sparklin’ gem! Where else can you get Dancercise, killer snails, scorchin’ guitar lixxx, cannibalistic sex involving extremely greasy buttocks, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace-level miniatures used unironically, living statues, and TV’s War of the World‘s Jared Martin all in one place?” Horror Fuel
“This is far from the bloodiest film my the godfather of gore but for those looking for juicy kills will enjoy it. Overall, Aenigma is not the most original or depraved Fulci film but it still satisfies. The transfer from Severin looks f*cking gorgeous. My friends over at Cultsploitation even compared this brilliant transfer to 88 Films release to show just how superior this release is.” Horror Society
“Though low on logic, Aenigma is highly entertaining if taken in the right spirit with a string of outlandish murder sequences involving reflections, an animated statue, a spooky Top Gun poster, and in the most notorious sequence, a young woman paralyzed with fear as she’s swarmed with snails in her bed.” Mondo Digital
” … we get bleeding paintings, death by statue, an Evil Dead-esque strangulation by doppelgänger, and in the most infamous moment of the feature, suffocation by snails. Unfortunately the latter scene, despite being actually quite effective in execution on account of using real, live, snails, will pretty much always, understandably, stick in the mind of those who seek to denigrate the film as a whole.” Pickled Cinema
“There’s plenty wrong with Aenigma, but not enough to really rile up the viewer. Aenigma fails to impress or enrage, it sits in the middle as a hollow and empty experience masquerading as a horror film.” Sound on Sight
“For all of its faults […] Ænigma is a worthier film then it is typically given credit for. Compared to some of the more compromised work that lay ahead, it is at least recognisably Fulci’s work – and at its best, it displays the finer attributes one associates with the directors better films.” Troy Howarth, Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
“Ænigma was Fulci’s stab at making an up-to-date eighties-style horror movie. The film stock is bland, clean and micro-grained while the lighting strives vainly for colour gel atmospherics. Caught between two stools, the film can’t even boast the right sort of cast for this new aesthetic it’s trying to please. The actresses simply aren’t tacky enough.” Stephen Thrower, Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
” …stilted, incomprehensible and utterly overblown shocker.” John Elliot, Elliot’s Guide to Films on Video
Jared Martin … Doctor Robert Anderson
Lara Lamberti … Eva Gordon (as Lara Naszinski)
Ulli Reinthaler … Jenny Clark
Sophie d’Aulan … Kim
Jennifer Naud … Grace O’Neal
Riccardo Acerbi … Fred Vernon
Kathi Wise … Virginia Williams
Milijana Zirojevic … Kathy (as Mijlijana Zirojevic)
Dragan Bjelogrlic … Tom (as Dragan Ejelogrlic)
Ljiljana Blagojevic … Ms Jones (as Lijlijana Blagojevic)
Franciska Spahic … Joanne
Dusica Zegarac … Mary
Zorica Lesic … Miss James
Rade Colovic … Tom
Lucio Fulci … police detective at the crime scene of Fred Vernon’s death [uncredited]