In “Aenigma”, the Italian gore master tries his hand at a tired teen slasher trope with minimal success beyond his gross-out gags.
An “ugly” girl falls into a coma after she is attacked by classmates but finds a way to take revenge while comatose by astral connecting with a new student. Let’s dig into 1987’s “Aenigma”, directed by Lucio Fulci!
As I See It
Most of us that consider this genre home don’t need much of a leap of imagination to believe how cruel other kids can be. We are historically a community of bullied and downtrodden latch key kids whose parents don’t get them and peers can’t stand them.
That could be why, when a filmmaker tries to tap that vein, it’s so easy to turn in an out-of-tune effort. You can’t tell a pizza maker how to knead the dough.
So what happens when a venerable horror master gives us a bloody bromide? You get a cliché that looks good.
There is no attempt to explain the supernatural element of the story at all. Our ugly duckling Kathy has somehow taken psychic control of the new student and uses her to seduce all the teachers, who mostly end up dead.
Why the coach is killed by a clone of himself… not explained. How Kathy pulls off this magic trick… not explained. How anyone even figures out that Kathy is the one controlling the mayhem… you guessed it, not explained.
The sound design is overly literal. Eva’s murder weapon may be the most laughable blade in cinema history, and it was an odd touch to paint Kathy green like the Wicked Witch.
The snails were a nice change-up for gross-out horror, but that only goes so far. Reportedly the gag was Fulci’s idea as well.
You may recognize Lara Lamberti from Lamberto Bava’s A Blade in the Dark or Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonja. And of course, Fulci has his typical cameo, this time as a Detective.
Of Gratuitous Nature
Could be the requisite Giallo-style blood dripping from the ceiling which doesn’t make much sense, the nude girl being devoured by snails (probably the coolest scene of the film), or my choice would be the terribly readable miniature sets.
Lara Lamberti (Eva) was gifted some fine bone structure and is a vision of possessed beauty.
Ripe for a Remake
The only unique element to mine is the snails, which have very little potential beyond what Fulci did with them. I suppose some acid-like mucus or a close-up of some gnarly teeth could be cool. But this one is better left to the heap of teen slashers it rests on.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
Severin films released a Blu-ray “4K scan” from the original negatives in 2020. It is also available to stream on Tubi, Screambox, and Arrow.