Image Entertainment presents
Nurse: "Two deaths in two days. That's a bit strange.
Doctor Anderson: You bet it is. It's a crazy coincidence."- uncredited actress, Jared Martin
Stars: Jared Martin, Lara Naszinski, Ulli Reinthaler
Other Stars: Sophie d'Aulan, Jennifer Naud, Milijana Zirojevic
Director: Lucio Fulci
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence and sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:25m:33s
Release Date: 2001-09-04
DVD ReviewThe names Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento are synonymous with the wave of Italian gore films that flooded the world in the 1970s and 1980s. Both directors contributed a seemingly endless stream of creepy, bloody cult favorites during their careers, and have each developed a rabid fan base willing to debate the merits of the two filmmakers. Fulci directed such gore classics as Zombie, Gates Of Hell, and The Beyond, while Argento helmed The Bird With The Crystal Plummage, Deep Red, and of course Suspiria. Argento would ultimately become the more well known of the two, but legions of fans could argue until the wee hours of the morning as to who was the better director.
In 1987, Fulci released Aenigma, which never achieved the level of success that some of his other titles did. In the tradition of "the tormented outcast" genre, this film featured a misfit named Kathy (Milijana Zirojevic), a student at St. Mary's College in Boston. Kathy is a spindly female nerd, and as the film opens we see her getting dressed up, complete with gaudy gold eye shadow. Another couple, sexy Kim (Sophie d' Aulan) and her shaggy-haired boyfriend, are helping Kathy select the killer ensemble as a horribly out-dated song (Head Over Heels, which is not the Go-Gos song, I might add) plays.
All this fancy dressing is a prelude of doom for Kathy's impending hot date. As we see Kathy and her date making out in a car, it becomes clear that the "date" is an elaborate ruse to humiliate her. A microphone is transmitting her wild moans to several cars full of fellow students, including the aforementioned sexpot Kim. At a key moment, all the cars turn on their headlights, which shine mercilessly onto Kathy and her date. Of course, Kathy is the only one not in on the joke, and she sets of running through the dark night, chased by the mocking taunts of the others. Predictably, Kathy is run over and nearly killed.
As Kathy lies in a coma, wired to the bejesus belt with various nightmarish life-support, a new student arrives at St. Mary's. The student is Eva (Lara Naszinski, a cousin of Nastassja Kinski!), a very pretty girl that appears to be somehow under the spell of the comatose Kathy. Fulci doesn't spell out exactly how all this occurs, but it is very clear visually. We, the viewer, can tell that Eva is being controlled by Kathy. Using Eva as a tool, Kathy then proceeds to seek murderous revenge on all of those that wronged her. Only the good Doctor Anderson (Jared Martin) seems to understand that something is amiss, and he is able to magically correlate changes in Kathy's brainwaves after each subsequent death. He's not only a neurologist, he's a crime fighter, too.
It wouldn't be a horror film without the ever present disturbing mute cleaning woman, either. The so-called "Crazy Mary," a strung-out, baggy-eyed woman, has her own hidden agenda, and Fulci slowly involves her in the creepiness.
In true Fulci fashion, there is ample nudity amidst the gore. There is a particularly sweaty sequence between Eva and Doctor Anderson that erupts into full-blown cannibalism. Even in death scenes, Fulci incorporates a clinical shot of a nude woman being slowly killed by snails. Not exactly conventional, but this is typical of Fulci.
While Aenigma is not Fulci's strongest work, his distinctive visual style is very apparent. His use of deep shadows and unusual camera angles contributes greatly to the setting of the dark, surreal tone here. St. Mary's is apparently the gloomiest, darkest college in Boston, and when Fulci launches into the relatively gory final twenty minutes, it comes across like a demented carnival funhouse.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Image presents Aenigma in a nonanamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are very muted and pale, with flesh tones that fluctuate between natural and over saturated. The contrast and depth of the dominant shadows that Fulci presents is adequate, with very little image loss during the night sequences. A few nicks and scratches, but nothing too horrible.
Fulci fans will no doubt rejoice over the DVD release of Aenigma regardless, but the quality of this print is less than perfect.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: No audio bells and whistles here. A flat, English mono track is the only option available on Aenigma. Dialogue is clean, but the Claudia Maria Cordio score sounds a bit muddy at times.
Somehow a film like this doesn't suffer too much from a straight mono track, though I imagine Fulci could have had a field day with an atmospheric 5.1 or DTS track.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Extras Review: This Image release of Aenigma is about as bare bones as you can get. The menu consists only of the slim 12 chapter selections. No trailers, bios, etc. Considering the cult status of such directors as Fulci and Argento, I'm rather surprised that Image hasn't bothered to enhance these releases with more significant supplementals.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsAenigma is not one of Fulci's better efforts. The overall gore quotient is minimal, and the tired "outcast seeking revenge" story line has been done to death (no pun intended). However, as a Fulci film, this does have more than it's fair share of visual spookiness, and that is the only reason Aenigma may merit a viewing. This is visually stimulating, but suffers from stiff acting and a slow-moving script that falls apart in the final moments.
Recommended only for curious hard core Italian gore fans, and true Fulci buffs.
Rich Rosell 2001-09-11