Aenigma - Aenigma( Blu Ray & CD) [Severin - 2020]Aenigma was the second to last film that Lucio Fulci helmed in the 1980s, and while it’s certainly not top draw Fulci. It’s an entertaining enough slice of euro-horror pie, with gory enough-to-bizarre killings, camp characters, and cheesy dialogue. From Severin here is a recent Blu Ray release of the film- bringing together a new 4k scan, a new commentary track , and a few other extras. And on the version we got the film's soundtrack comes on a second CD- though this version is limited.
Aenigma appeared in 1987- it was directed by Fulci, with a screenplay by him & Giorgio Mariuzzo- who had worked on early 80’s Fulci classics like The Beyond, House By Cemetery, and Contraband. It’s fair to say the film/script very much takes direct influences from a few other films- firstly Carrie- as the film focuses in on a bullied female teen. Next is Ozploitation flick Patrick, as the teen is controlling & killing folk from her bed. Lastly, there’s two Dario Agento's Suspiria & Phenomena - as most of the action takes place in an exclusive private school. Sure Fulci, even in his classic late 70’s/ 80’s period, clearly took influences from other films- but they where more keen blended with his own distinctly surreal/ non- sensical horror tropes, making the films whole his own. Sadly with Aenigma, this element is very much diluted- meaning more often than not this could be a 80’s euro horror by any number of directors- though it’s a lot of fun, deeply cheesy, with a few memorable bizarre Fulci touches here & there.
The film is set in the present day Boston( in reality Belgrade, Serbia)- with the film opening credits seed thin & gangly teen Kathy(Milijana Zirojevic) getting over made-up, and dressed by her school buddies. Next, we see her in a car with the school's PE teacher Frank(Riccardo Acerbi), she declares her love to him- and it becomes clear that it’s all a setup, with several carloads of teen listening & laughing. Kathy runs, getting knocked down by a car- and lands up in hospital on life support. Next, we move to the films main setting- a grand & large private girl school, where new girl Eva(Lara Lamberti) - a blond & promiscuous is been shown around by one of the odd female heads of the school- from the off it's made clear that Kathy & Eva are somehow connected. Fairly soon the bullies are been off in often weird & at points wacky ways- like been strangled by their own reflection, been crushed by a come life statue, and most infamous suffocated by a mass of snails. Added into the mix we have a creepy housekeeper with glowing red eyes, a sleazy doctor who’s carrying on with the students, and the weird middle-age female duo running the school.
The films main joy is the cheesy & camp characters/ dialogue, after this uneasy/ subtly surreal air, with the effects/ killings coming in third- there is really none of the nasty, torturous & prolonged gore Fulci is none for- sure there are touches of gore, but the kill focus is on the more bizarre-to-quirky macabre. The whole thing is topped with a fittingly camp largely synth based soundtrack, with a great cheesy pop ballad used on the intro/ outro titles. Aenigma is an entertaining late 80’s shot of euro-horror, with fleeting touches of Fulci’s more distinctive touches- if you entering into it not expecting too much, you’ll enjoy what we have here.
Moving onto this new Blu Ray, and the new 4K print is great, really making the tacky 80’s fashion & big hair pop, and for the most part, the effects don’t look too dated. On the extras side we get commentary track from genre & Fulci expert Troy Howarth, and Mondo Digital's Nathaniel Thompson - this is a nice blend of chatty-ness, observations, and facts. They begin talking about the tacky euro-pop song that plays over the credits, detailing whose behind it. Moving on the discuss the films Serbia shooting location. Latter talking about the various key cast, Fulci’s health problems about the time of filming, and his personality. As we move on we get to discussion about the subtle traces of humour in this film, and some of his other work. They talk about the first DVD release of the film & how it was cut by two minutes, moving onto discuss other older Fulci films that need a decent Blu Ray release, plans at one point for a sequel to Aenigma and much more. All told a most worthy track. Next on extras, we get Italian Aenigma- Appraising Late Day Fulci- this featurette runs for thirty-eight minute. It features a host of genre experts, and cast & crew of latter-day Fulci films discussing each of his later films in a good amount of depth- it starts with 1986’s The Devils Honey & finishes with 1991’s Door To Silence, each film gets around five to ten minutes discussion/review- and all in all it’s a very interesting little documentary. Lastly, we get a fourteen-minute interview with the film's screenwriter Giorgio Mariuzzo- this is an onscreen interview in Italian with English subs.
The other extra here on the version we’re reviewing, which is ltd to 3000 copies/also features a card slip, is a second CD disc featuring the films original soundtrack for the film. This takes in eighteen tracks and was composed & performed by Carlo Maria Cordio- who also did the score to Fulci’s Dämonia, as well as scoring the likes of Absurd, Misteria - Body Puzzle, and Troll 2. It’s largely a synth & electronic-based scoring – though we do get a few touches of guitar, bass, horn and string work. It’s very of its time- but none the less often quite memorable, moving between mood & cheese. We go from the atmospherically tinkling piano & rising synth of “Sudden Death” which latter shifts to eerie percussive scuttling, chilling key swoons & subtle electro choir touches. There’s the pulsing–yet-snap beats ‘n’ bass meets tinkling keys of “Demon Knights” which feels very Goblin like. There’s the very rising new age meets soap vibe of “Leaving L.A” with it’s lulling & swooning blend of vibes cascades, romantic string risers, and smooth jazz horn work. Or the darting & pumping synth, ethnic touched electro percussion, and chugging in & out guitar/ orchestration/ gothic organ runs of “Science Project”. With the CD been topping off with the cheesy swooning & sailing 80’s pop ballad of "Head Over Heels”. All told a varied enough score- with nicely balances mood, cheese & tuneful melody.
It’s great to see Severin putting out this definitive release of this late 1980’s Fulci film- and yes Aenigma can hardly be called a classic of the director's output, but it has charms & moments of Fulci creativity. If you can I’d say track down the double-disc Ltd version, as the soundtracks a cheesy-if-worthy 80’s based score.