Aenigma (1987)

AenigmaCoverIt’s not often that my gag reflex kicks in as soon as a movie starts. Most movies this ineptly made don’t get around to actively sucking for something like ten or fifteen minutes (that’s part of their ineptness – they’re slow to get going), but director Lucio Fulci (Zombie, The House by the Cemetery) starts it off with a soft rock ballad so wimpy, that even REO Speedwagon would be embarrassed by it!

Called “Head Over Heels”, it featured a fey-sounding dude singing about putting on your make-up and stuff and I was wondering if this was a song left over from the Phoebe Cates classic, Private School. Of course that movie had Phoebe and we were stuck with some bird-faced thing, whose friends were making her up to look really hot for her first big date.

It should have been obvious (ugly people should always be suspicious anytime a beautiful person offers to help them) that this girl and her boyfriend that were helping the ugly girl get ready for her date were just laying the foundation for a really hilarious practical joke. Especially since the makeup made her look like Cleopatra’s drag queen brother.

Kathy (our homely villain) is sent out on her date with hunky Fred Vernon who is the school’s P.E. teacher. He acts like he’s going to go all the way with her, prompting her to gush about how great he is and that she’s always loved him.

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Of course Fred has a microphone in the car that is broadcasting all this to his devoted listeners who are hiding in their own cars in lovers’ lane and giggling at how gullible and ugly Kathy is.

It isn’t long before they reveal their presence, sending a distraught Kathy running away right into the path of a speeding car. The next thing you know she’s hooked up to a bunch of machines and her doctor is declaring her brain dead.

Back at the school, troubled student Eva is joining up. She has some kind of mental problem past, but she isn’t as ugly as a mud fence so the headmistress figures she’s still trading up from Kathy. Eva immediately is hated by the viewer when she declares that a successful school year for her is making out with as many boys as possible.

Eva sets her sights on Fred and suddenly develops a cramp near her crotch that she needs him to massage. They decide to hook up later that night. In the meantime, Kathy is working her psychic magic on Eva, causing her to have these little episodes where she is possessed by Kathy and sees things and remembers things of Kathy’s life.

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Kathy’s mom is also involved in all this. She’s the maid whose eyes glow red every now and again and the girls are convinced that she’s mentally challenged, but none of this is ever really used in the movie, so feel free to ignore all the nasty looks she gives the students.

Fred gets killed by some Kathy-style revenge and this is the start of a series of unfortunate accidents at the school, including a snail attack.

The rest of the movie plays out in the familiar and uninteresting manner you would expect. A few more people are killed, Eva becomes involved with Kathy’s doctor, Kathy’s mother pulls the plug on her veg daughter and the soft rock classic “Head Over Heels” gets a nice reprise at the end of the movie, to make sure you didn’t forget what a completely botched effort this all was.

While Aenigma wasn’t made at the end of Fulci’s career, it definitely feels like it’s the beginning of a downward slide in the late 1980s and early 1990s when his resume starts filling up with lame TV movies (The House of Clocks, The Sweet House of Horrors) and numbing nonsense like Demonia and Voices From Beyond. (To be fair, 1988’s Zombi 3 is terrifically entertaining trash.)

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Fulci sometimes doesn’t even seem like he’s paying attention to what he’s doing with the camera, though the lackluster set ups and bland scenes don’t exactly inspire maverick (or competent) film making. Even the expected gore is nothing memorable, doesn’t happen too often and is usually in the characters’ imaginations.

Likewise, the story itself, feels like more like an afterthought than anything else. The maid’s red eyes are never explained, the comments about strange things going on with the headmistress aren’t mentioned more than once, and why would the brain dead Kathy be capable of anything other than drooling on herself? Also, would Kathy really care that Eva’s boyfriend is cheating on her? Why did she need to get revenge for that?

Everything in this movie seems low-rent and slipshod, from that crappy song, to the sets, the dubbing and especially a cast who was so lacking in talent that you could be forgiven if you were left wondering if the best performance was a competition between the intellectually delayed maid or the snails.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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