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Wide World of Horror: ‘Aenigma’ – recycling ideas without any of the fun

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Screenplay by Lucio Fulci & Giorgio Mariuzzo
Directed by Lucio Fulci
1987, Italy/Yugoslavia

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. By this point in his career Lucio Fulci was severely running out of steam. His titles were no longer met with any fanfare and even his most ardent supporters had begun to think less of his newer creations. With his best days behind him  the once acclaimed director turned towards two different pathways to help keep his filmmaking career afloat.

The first path Signore Fulci chose was to get more violent, bloodier, and gorier. This pathway produced mixed returns. At times the gore was outstanding, enough to keep a viewer interested and wanting more. In other instances the gore was in service of a paltry story and left the viewer wondering the point of all the brutality. Either way this pathway has very little bearing on Aenigma.

The second pathway chosen by the Italian director was to borrow wholesale from other films. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing, as long as something interesting is done with the borrowed material. Aenigma borrows heavily from such titles as Suspiria and Carrie, but the law of diminishing returns comes into play. The ideas and themes borrowed from those two titles remain exactly as they were in their original films, only executed with less aplomb.

aenigma-snailedThe only area where Aenigma deserves any kudos is in its use of snails. Yes, you read that right, the way Aenigma uses snails is worthy of praise. There’s not many cases of death by snail in the movies, and Aenigma delivers one of those cases. It’s not a particularly horrific or extreme scene, but rather a slower moment that does interesting things with an element that isn’t usually found in a horror movie. It’s only a small moment, but when the snails come out in Aenigma the film finally gives the viewer a reason to pay attention.

Aenigma is disappointing, but not completely. Rather than being a total disappointment Aenigma is the logical download (2)end game of a director who has lost the goods. It lacks in atmosphere, verve, and horror. All the elements at play in Aenigma have been done before, and much better, in other horror movies. There’s a minute chance that some will be taken by the films atmosphere, but said atmosphere is never really built to enough for it to actually make an impact.

When Aenigma finishes the only reaction for the viewer is to let out a sigh and mumble, “well, that’s over I guess.” When that’s the only lasting impression of a film there’s definitely something wrong with the film in question. There’s plenty wrong with Aenigma, but not enough to really rile up the viewer. Aenigma fails to impress or enrage, it sits in the middle as a hollow and empty experience masquerading as a horror film.

-Bill Thompson


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