If there’s anything be learned from 1988’s Aenigma …. well, actually, that might be giving the film too much credit. There’s probably nothing to learn from Aenigma. The film does start with a pretty cruel prank and that prank leads to some snail-related mayhem but really, you should have already learned the truth about pranks after Carrie burned down the prom.
The prank involves the cruel girls at St. Mary’s boarding school tricking their classmate, Kathy (Milijana Zirojevic), into thinking that she’s on a date with a gym teacher (Riccardo Acerbi) and then jumping out of the shadows and surprising her when Kathy and the teacher start making out in his car. This leads to a humiliated Kathy running out into the middle of traffic, where she’s promptly hit by a car and goes into a coma. While everyone agrees that sucks for Kathy, at least it means that no one will ever know the truth about the prank.
Then people start dying.
They die in a variety of weird ways and since only the people involved with the prank are the ones being targeted, it doesn’t take much effort to guess that the comatose Kathy is probably involved. It also doesn’t take much effort to guess that the newest student at the school, Eva (Lara Lamberti), has been possessed by Kathy and is mostly just hanging around to make sure that everyone’s dead.
What’s weird is that, in her coma, Kathy has so many different powers that you have to wonder why exactly she needed to possess Eva. For instance, the gym teacher is strangled when his own reflection jumps out of a mirror. One of the girls is killed when a statue in a museum suddenly comes to life and attacks her. Yet another girl is somehow killed by snails.
Yes, you read that right. She wakes up to discover that she’s covered in snails and this leads to her dying. Aenigma is regularly criticized for the scene with snails. “Why didn’t she just get out of bed and take a shower or something?” many a commentator has asked. I guess they have a point but, honestly, if I woke up and there were a few hundred snails on me, I would totally freak out.
Apparently, the main reason that Eva’s there is so she can try to seduce Kathy’s handsome doctor (Jared Martin) but the doctor is more interested in Jenny Clark (Ulli Reinthaler), who was involved in the prank but who, unlike everyone else, felt really bad about it afterward. I’m sure that would lead to any complications….
There’s kind of a sad story behind this rather forgettable if occasionally entertaining horror film. After making horror history by directing films like Zombi 2 and The Beyond, director Lucio Fulci entered into a career decline. Struggling with ill-health and having had a falling out with some of his former collaborators, Fulci found himself working with lower budgets and less interesting premises. That’s certainly the case with Aenigma, which was shot in Sarajevo with a largely unknown cast and which blatantly ripped off the plots of Carrie and Patrick.
Aenigma has got a terrible reputation among fans of Italian horror. Personally, I think it’s a very flawed film but I also think that it’s not quite as bad as some have made it out to be. I mean, the snails are ludicrous but they’re also so weird that you can’t help but kind of love it when they show up. For that matter, the coach being killed by his own reflection and the scene where the statue come to life are clever ideas, even if their execution leaves something to be desired. Even in his later years, Fulci still had his talent. Unfortunately, when it came to films like Aenigma, he rarely had the resources necessary to truly make his vision come to life.