Directed by Rupert Wainwright
Written by Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage
Starring Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne,
Johnathon Pryce, and Nia Long
Running time 103 minutes
I admit I am a total sucker for any horror films that have any religious overtones, or religion plays any real role in the story. I was raised Roman Catholic on my dads side and Lutheran on my moms. My dad was actually in the seminary for about 5 or 6 years studying to be a Priest, obviously there was a change of plans or I wouldn't be here typing today. Anyway it means that religion played a big part in my growing up, I was always interested in the similarity and differences and have since an early age read up on many religions both mainstream and not. Horror just kind of fed into the interest for me, exposing me to some that i may not have otherwise come across,and broadening my horizons and my scope of research. Films like Stigmata always catch my attention as they play directly into that realm of curiosity and the truest form of Good vs Evil in the spiritual sense, so it was only natural that eventually Id find my way back to religious based horror for a throwback. I'm sure many are wondering why not Exorcist, well simple enough although its fantastic it has also been written to death especially with the 41st Anniversary, so why rehash something you've probably read about a half dozen times this year already when there is so much other great fodder for review?!
Frankie (Patricia Arquette) is a happy 20 something hairdresser that Lives, meaning shes no saint! She parties with friends, drinks has sex, she does all the things that most 20 somethings do and she is happy as hell doing it, all is good in Frankie's world. That is until she received a package in the mail, mixed in with the contents is a rosary, that it later turns out belonged to someone who was particularly well know to the hierarchy of the Church. Shortly after receiving the gifts via mail, Frankie begins to exhibit some very strange behavior, becoming almost combative with People of the cloth on the subway, writing in ancient texts, suffering hallucinations and most disturbingly bleeding from the classical wounds of Stigmata (hands/wrists, feet, head, and finally chest).
It isn't long before the Chruch is involved Cardinal Houseman (Johnathon Price) approves the suave Father Andrew Kiernan's (Gabriel Byrne) involvement in the investigation of the case. He regularly investigates for the Church being that he is both a man of Science and a man of God, leaving him in the unique position of struggling with occasional religious doubts. He turns from skeptic to believer as he watches Frankie's symptoms of possession worsens, realizing something must be done or she will not only lose her life but her soul as well. Father Kiernan goes to the Cardinal with his fears and evidence but the Cardinal seems to have some secrets of his own, and becomes less than supportive of Father Kiernan's stance in regards to Frankie's "treatment". Will Frankie find peace in the midst of this holy battle raging on inside her or will she take Father Kiernan into hell with her! And will the Church survive its with it secrets in tact, or will religion as we know it forever change?
I am a big fan of this one (although many are not) for reasons above what we've already discussed.Lets start with the fact that this film is 15 years old this year yet when i revisited it for this review it didn't feel at all dated, which in itself is an achievement. Then there's the cast in this one, so incredibly strong! Johnathon Price is just awesome in his role as the"Dirty" Cardinal, Gabriel Byrne is well, he is just always perfect in the role of a Priest. I don't know why but something about him ( I am always extra excited when I see him cast a Religious man!)... Patricia Arquette, who I am not usually a big fan of, carries her role in this one with a range that I am not used to seeing from her, shes vile, harsh one second and vulnerable carrying almost a sad innocence the next. She really does fantastic. The story is well written, and keeps things very interesting, using various theories (some would call them conspiracies) of the Catholic Church very effectively to tell a tale that turns out to be something bigger than the usual possession. So say your prayers, turn down the lights and a take a look back at another film that caused a bit of a stir in its day, Stigmata ~ a Bloody good time! (ah yeah, I went there!)