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Monday, 17 January 2011

Aenigma (1987)

One of Lucio Fulci's less-famous films, Aenigma is far from a waste of 90 minutes. A prank on a girl, Cathy, goes awry, and she is hit by a car. While in a coma, Cathy finds that she can influence the outside world psychically, and sets about taking out horrific revenge upon the people who played the prank on her by inhabiting the body of a new girl at their school.

With shades of Carrie, Scanners, Nightmares In A Damaged Brain and more, Aenigma also feels a little like Dario Argento's legendary Suspiria (or indeed Phenomena) in terms of tone and setting. The dub and dialogue are lousy, but Fulci's films are always easier to watch if you're prepared for that in the first place.

Compared to the flicks he's more known for, Aenigma may seem a little slow, but it has its fair share of scares and plenty of atmosphere once it starts to pick up its pace. The gore of Fulci's other works is largely absent, replaced instead by bizarre set pieces such as - seriously - death by snails.

As the film continues, it gets weirder (weirder than death by snails? Yeah), as the girl in the coma falls in love, via the girl she has possessed, with the doctor that is caring for the girl in the coma. What? No, it's okay. I didn't get it at first either.

At its core, this is a revenge film, and has some suitably inventive psychic attacks on show, but the surreal nature of it will turn some viewers off. That is, out of the viewers that stick with the film despite the awful script and the atrocious dubbing job. Personally I enjoyed it. It's a nice slice of supernatural horror from a master of the genre whose powers were fading a little by the time his career arrived at this project.

The cast are fair to middling, with the striking presence of Lara Naszinsky being the finest piece of the puzzle in every way. There's a mad cleaning woman, a pointless cameo from Fulci himself and a suitably 80s synth/rock score, so something for everyone, really. There are no zombies and no extreme gore, which does set it apart from other Fulci films such as The Beyond or House By The Cemetary, but Fulci wasn't a one-trick director, no matter what some might say.

Aenigma has some very striking visuals (the scenes with Cathy in a coma, strapped to a machine, her head bloody and her skin deathly, are unnerving and brilliantly shot) and a chilling enough premise, but it's not hardcore enough for the splatter crowd and not polished enough for a supernatural audience. That said, tosh like this appeals to geeks like me very much indeed, even if it makes little sense and is so very silly.

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