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John’s Old School Horror Corner: Aenigma (1987) and its enigmatically senseless plot

October 17, 2013

MY CALL:  This film is regarded as some of Fulci’s worst work next to Conquest (1983). I rarely say this, but this film is for no one.  Just skip it and walk away!  WALK…AWAY!  MOVIES LIKE Aenigma:  Almost any other Fulci movie would satisfy you more, especially his zombie movies.  Given what Fulci was going for here with this film, I’d actually suggest Phenomena (1985), Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) or Mother of Tears (2007)–basically anything by Dario Argento.

Meet your victim slash heroine slash serial killer psychic.

Lucio Fulci (Zombie, The Beyond) brings us this obscure classic that serves as proof that all 80s teenagers were either the fornicating drug-using victims of serial killers (e.g., Friday the 13th, I Know What You Did Last Summer), heinous bullies who torture their awkward classmates (e.g., The Toxic Avenger), or the tortured awkward classmates that exact their horrible revenge on their tormentors (e.g., Sleepaway Camp, Carrie).  When the spirit of a comatose teenage girl possesses the body of a young woman to enact bloody revenge against the snobby lingerie-clad coeds responsible for her life-threatening condition, we find that the teenagers herein apply to all three categories–which is often the case.

Here’s something I didn’t get. Kathy’s mom gets evil demon eyes. Why? Is Kathy controlling her?  Would she really have to?  Wouldn’t the mother of a murderously vengeful psychic have decent odds of being a murderously vengeful psychic herself?  Why doesn’t she just exact her daughter’s revenge?

Anyway, here’s the decent looking girl that Kathy possesses.

Our victim (Kathy) psychically possesses Eva Gordon (Lara Lamberti; Red Sonja, A Blade in the Dark), a newcomer to the sorority that houses Kathy’s bitchy perpetrators.  Fulci makes no effort to explain Kathy’s psychic power to posses Eva or her link to Eva or how she even knew about Eva!  She informs her new roommate Jenny (Ulli Reinthaler; Zombi 3) that her goal is to “get with” as many cute boys as possible.  It seems that our spiritually under cover Kathy is trying to blend in by being slutty.  She starts with her misogynistic aerobics instructor–because sorority sisters are known for their attendance at handsy male-instructed aerobics classes.  Then the little harlot makes a pass at her doctor.  Not sure why.  After all, he is treating Kathy’s comatose body.  None of this makes any sense.

This flick comes with its share of random.  A guy gets strangled by his own reflection, Eva literally attacks her bedroom with a pair of yellow jeans and then has a spectral orgasm writhing about in her bed to celebrate the assault, and there’s an en masses snail attack (a la Slugs).  Really, nothing makes any sense in this big hot mess.  Why does someone who wakes up covered in snails quiver a little and then just die?  Why didn’t the chick struggle at all?  Do snails have a paralyzing venomous bite?  Do snails bite now in this farce of a movie?  Do they know some MMA hold that she couldn’t counter?

Not only does she not fight back, but she opens her mouth and waits for the snails to enter and deal some deadly blow.

Like many of Fulci’s nearly incoherent films, the writing and acting leaves a lot to be desired.  There’s no sense of pacing.  In fact, the third act–which is often the most watchable or even the only watchable portion of any horror movie–is actually by far the most boring portion of the film.  There is also no suspense whatsoever (not even in the finale) and the actors all play forgettable characters with no personality and no one would lament their loss.  Normally, what Fulci lacks in storytelling and casting direction he makes up for with glorious gore.  Sadly, this movie failed to deliver even that.

With that, I am giving one of my very rare recommendations to skip this film.  Skip this if you like the occasional horror movie.  Skip this if you’re a die hard, watch-everything horror hound.  Skip this even if you’re a Fulci fan trying to round out his entire body of work.

Just skip it.

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