You know those cop/spy movies where the hero is warned off investigating a case then hooks up with the suspect when he discovers the people at the very top are covering up something earthshaking massive. Sounds a bit like the X-Files? Well that’s the basic idea behind Rupert Wainwright’s Stigmata, only this time with a good dose of supernatural horror, Roman Catholic doctrine, blood and general stuff flying about.
Gabriel Byrne plays Vatican investigator Father Kiernan who takes a side trip from his assignment in Brazil to look into the case of a statue of the Madonna weeping blood at the funeral of Father Alameida. During the confusion of some spooky goings on at the church a street urchin steals the dead priest’s rosary and sells it to an American tourist, who mails it to her daughter Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) in Pittsburgh.
Back in Rome Cardinal Houseman (Jonathan Pryce) the head of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints warns Kiernan off the Alameida case and assigns him to investigate a young woman caught suffering from the physical manifestation of the wounds suffered by Jesus Christ at the time of his crucifixion or stigmata. Yes its Frankie of course and the weird thing is that she is not a Catholic or even a Christian, but an atheist. Naturally as Kiernan comes to the realisation that Frankie, with her increasingly severe stigmata wounds and other supernatural phenomena, has become the vessel for a message that threatens the foundations of the Catholic church, he falls in love with her and those secretive scoundrels from the Congregation of the Causes of Saints try to stop the message coming through at any cost.
I really enjoyed Stigmata, despite the hokey almost X-Files type format, the basic big idea and how it was executed was intelligently put together and in a world that is getting a bit overrun with films and TV shows about demonic possession and exorcism it makes a really welcome change to be diverted from that particular path. Added to that are some excellent camera work and spectacular special effects along with a great musical score by Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Byrne and Pryce are of course playing exactly to cast in the roles of doubting Catholic priest and devious Cardinal with a hidden agenda, but what the hell, I’m not complaining they both make such a brilliant job of it!
Not just your run of the mill demonic possession chiller I give Stigmata a 666/666
Stigmata has just been released on Dual Format Blu-ray for the first time in the UK by Eureka entertainment Ltd. Price £17.99
commentary by director Rupert Wainwright
Divine Rights: a documentary about the phenomena of Stigmata
Identify music video featuring Natalie Imbruglia