• Aenigma

    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: March 13th, 2017.
    Director: Lucio Fulci
    Cast: Jared Martin, Lara Lamberti, Ulli Reinthaler, Sophie d'Aulan, Jennifer Naud, Riccardo Acerbi
    Year: 1987

    The Movie:

    Lucio Fulci’s 1987 film Aenigma starts off with a scene where a young college girl named Kathy (Mijlijana Zirojevic) is putting on her red dress and her makeup to the sounds of the film’s theme song, Head Over Heels (or, if the opening credits are to be believed, Head Over Meels!). The reason? This awkward, shy nerdy girl - the daughter of the Mary, the maid at St. Mary’s College where she’s enrolled - has a hot date. It turns out that date is with Fred (Riccardo Acerbi), the college’s gym teacher. They go park, start to make out and she gets… into it. What she doesn’t know is that Fred is an asshole and that he’s put a microphone in the car, broadcasting her pillow talk to her fellow students, all listening in their own cars nearby. Kathy gets out of the car and runs, the others chasing her slowly and shining lights at her to further her humiliation – and then BAM! Another car comes out of nowhere and flattens her. These days, Kathy is basically brain dead and sits in a nearby hospital on life support.

    Enter foxy new student Eva Gordon (Lara Lamberti). The school doesn’t normally accept new students half way through the school year, but since they’ve got an opening, why not. Eva hits it off with the rest of the girls easily enough, telling her new roommate that success, to her at least, is making out with all the hot boys! When she catches Fred’s eye at gym class the next day they agree to meet up later that night under cover of the darkness, but when Eva shows up, the door is locked. She can hear noises inside but Fred won’t let her in. The next day word gets out that Fred is dead! The last person to see him alive? Mary (Dusica Zegarac), the caretaker and Kathy’s mother. As time goes on, Eva’s mental state seems to be eroding. She has memories of growing up in New Orleans, only she grew up in Boston. She gets confused easily and tends to stare off into space now and then. Enter Doctor Robert Anderson (Jared Martin), a dream neurologist who knows what she needs – hot loving! As they get entwined in a wonky relationship some more murders take place – one coed is killed by snails (!?), another by a statue that has come to life. Is Eva up to no good? Is Kathy’s body somehow controlling her and using her as an instrument of vengeance? Or is Mary the one behind all of this?

    Aenigma might not always make sense but it is at least always entertaining. Very much a product of when it was made (there are eighties era posters all over the girls’ rooms, look for Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, David Bowie, Snoopy and Yoda!), the fashions are garish and tacky but Fulci still manages to make this feel like a Fulci movie. That means we get some really strange murder set pieces, a decent amount of gore and a whole lot of dream logic. The movie borrows bits and pieces from Patrick, from Carrie and from Susperia but never feels like a direct copy of any of those films. Rather, it goes into stranger, more nonsensical territory, less interested in properly explaining things than in simply being weird for the sake of being weird.

    Performances are alright. Jared Martin (who just passed away earlier this month and who had an extensive career on American television including a long run on Dallas) is probably the best of the bunch, playing his doctor with the right mix of brains and cunning. At the same time, he’s clearly got a weak spot for college girls – tisk, tisk! Dusica Zegarac is kind of great as the maid. She has very little dialogue here, just a couple of lines, but she’s got that crazed look in her eyes, kind of looking like a low rent Susanne Sarandon if she’d just come off of a two week pills and booze bender. Mijlijana Zirojevic doesn’t get much screen time but she’s sympathetic enough in the opening scene that we feel bad for her when what happens to her happens to her. She’s got big expressive eyes, which helps in this instance. Lara Lamberti makes for a perfectly fine lead here. She’s attractive and handles the material given to her with no trouble at all, even if that material is fairly goofy.

    Notorious for that ‘death by snails’ scene (and rightly so – it’s not right for there to be snails on boobs like that) and maybe less so for the terrible theme song, Aenigma lacks the atmosphere and nightmarish qualities of the director’s best work, but it is entertaining in its own strange, goofy way.


    Aenigma is presented on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66.1 widescreen, touted being ‘remastered in 2k from the original camera negative.’ The image here is quite strong. Colors are nicely reproduced throughout the duration of the film and black levels are fine. Skin tones look good and the image is free of any overzealous noise reduction. There are no problems with any obvious compression artifacts nor is there any edge enhancement worth calling out. Some minor print damage is present throughout but it’s nothing series, just a bit of dirt and some tiny specks rather than big scratches. Some scenes do look softer than others but even when these occur this transfer is still quite good.

    Italian and English language audio options are provided in LPCM 2.0 Mono with subtitles provided in English only for the Italian track. Audio quality is also quite good – there are no discernable problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are nicely balanced throughout playback. For older mono mixes the audio here sounds just fine. For what it’s worth, the English track matches the performers’ lip movements more often than not, but it’s clear that both tracks are dubbed.

    The main extra on the disc is a seventy-seven minute long featurette entitled Aenigma: Fulci And The Eighties. Directed by Eugenio Ercolani, this feature length documentary explores the latter period of the director’s career by way of some new interviews with Antonio Bido, Carlo Maria Cordio, Michele De Angelis, Marco Di Stefano, Claudio Fragasso, Alessandro Grossi and Antonio Tentori. Rather than offer up an introspective look at the film’s the director made during this period, this piece is more a series of reflections on the man from those who worked with him during this period before he passed away in 1996. There are some interesting stories here about what he was like to work with, thoughts on the quality of the work he was putting out and input on being involved with the pictures themselves. Though Fulci’s work in the second half of the eighties isn’t necessarily regarded as his best, it’s still interesting to learn about this stuff and as such, the documentary is well worth checking out for fans of the director.

    The disc alternate Italian credits sequences, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. It’s also worth noting that 88 Films has supplied some nice reversible cover art for this release.

    The Final Word:

    Aenigma is pretty zany stuff, sort of like Fucli taking on Patrick or even Carrie but putting his own bizarre twist on the proceedings. It’s colorful, it’s quirky and it’s just plain bizarre – never really scary, but then, never boring either. If it isn’t the film he’ll be remembered for it still has enough going for it that the director’s fan base will certainly appreciate seeing it in high definition and with some nice extras too.
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Nice review. How did I miss that this one was even coming to Blu? And with a feature-length documentary about Fulci in the '80s? I'm on it.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      On 88 Films' presentation, the day for night filtering seems to be missing in quite a number of scenes (eg, during the death-by-snail scene and the museum sequence)
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      I'd actually never seen this before watching the Blu-ray so I didn't notice, but I can see how that would irk those more familiar with the movie. A shame, as otherwise it looks quite good.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ian Jane View Post
      I'd actually never seen this before watching the Blu-ray so I didn't notice, but I can see how that would irk those more familiar with the movie. A shame, as otherwise it looks quite good.
      I would've assumed you'd seen it before, Ian. I guess that snail scene was a bit of an eye-opener if this was your first time watching the film. Ugh!

      I find AENIGMA to be a fun film when approached in the right frame of mind. Not great, by a long shot, but I get a fair amount of entertainment out of it and tend to watch it once every few years.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Yeah, I had fun with it. And indeed, that snail scene.... I'd heard about it but yeah, seeing it in action. WTF???