“Put on your make-up, your eyes are blue enough, tonight is special for you... You’re gonna see that dream come true...” So intones the delightful synth-pop number that opens this late entry in Fulci’s career. But if any dreams are coming true tonight, they certainly won’t be those of Kathy (played by Milijana Zirojevic), a bullied student at St. Mary’s College, Boston (played by the Yugoslavian countryside). Poor Kathy ends up under the wheels of a speeding car when a prank pulled by her classmates – in league with her not-terribly-professional gym teacher – goes tragically wrong.
Of course, Kathy’s still alive and, if not quite kicking, then at least comatose in a hospital bed surrounded by heart monitors (I counted at least three) and under the supervision of dishy Dr Anderson. From here, her spirit flies up out of her body to whoosh away over a model of the hospital and take possession of Eva, a new student just arriving at St. Mary’s. There’s barely time to unpack her collection of spandex bodystockings before Eva/Kathy is off on a vengeful supernatural killing spree (talk about getting off on the wrong foot!). And, before long, Kathy’s former frenemies are dying in all kinds of
Lucio Fulci was that most paradoxical of things: a director who was as likely to copycat the latest trend in American cinema as he was to create something staggeringly original – often at the same time. Aenigma, however, finds him doing something he’d almost never be accused of anywhere else – namely, aping that other Italian fave, Dario Argento. It’s not just the girls’ school setting or telepathy-with-invertebrates plot thread (Phenomena anyone?) but the whole style of the thing – with its floaty camerawork and close-quarters bitching – that recalls Argento. (Although, to be fair, Dario never did quite match the pure Fulci-envisaged terror that is... snails! Snails on your face!)
Nevertheless, Fulci comes into his own here with a fantastic sequence set in an empty museum at midnight. Severed limbs fall from paintings, statues come to murderous life... you could almost be watching The House by the Cemetery (in fact, if you switch this off and swap DVDs, you really could be watching The House by the Cemetery, which might not be an entirely bad idea). The scene is classic Fulci, and by far the least goofy scare sequence in this relatively light-hearted piece.
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. As for the script, it’s rather aenchanting too. Here are some of my favouritest quotes:
- Doctor: How does a young girl who’s braindead experience a violent emotion?
- Student: We can spend the night together tomorrow... Love! Oh lovely!
Doctor: That’s enough. My lips are numb and my patients are waiting.
- Coroner (examining body): These macho types never know when to stop... It was the same with the man who invented jogging.
- Girl: Give me the address again.
Friend: Number 28, the second on the right. It’s hard to miss... he’s got a picture of the Incredible Hulk on the door.
Girl: That’s a good start.
- Student: Fred... he’s dead!
- Doctor: There’s something strange about that girl. She has a total recall of another person’s memories...
- Gym student (to teacher): I may have a fat ass, but if you slap it one more time, I’ll slap your face!