Director: Rupert Wainwright
Screenwriter: Tom Lazarus, Rick Ramage
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long Scream Factory
Rated R | 103 Minutes
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Directed by Rupert Wainwright (2005’s The Fog), and co-written by the tag team of Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage, Stigmata stars Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) as a woman who suffers the Stigmata — the living wounds of the crucified Christ.
The 1999 film opens in the Brazilian village of Belo Quinto, with Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) examining a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe weeping blood at the funeral of Father Paulo Alameida. While Andrew is collecting evidence, a young boy steals the rosary from Father Alameida’s hand.
In Pittsburgh, Frankie Paige (Arquette) receives the rosary as a gift from her mother, who just got back from Belo Quinto. As an atheist, Frankie has no faith in God and sees the rosary as nothing more than a trinket. That changes when she is attacked by an unseen force and receives two deep puncture wounds through her wrists. Doctors can’t find the cause of the wounds but believe them to be self-inflicted.
Frankie’s miraculous bleeding comes to the attention of Kiernan, the Vatican’s top scientific investigator. Kiernan travels to Pittsburgh to interview Frankie, believing she may be suffering from stigmata. When Frankie tells him she is an atheist, Andrew isn’t so sure. He explains that only the deeply devout are struck with stigmata – the five wounds that Jesus Christ received during the crucifixion.
Weird things start happening. Frankie begins speaking in Aramaic, the language of Christ. Kiernan finds her writing in Aramaic on the walls of her apartment. Turns out Frankie is possessed by the spirit of Father Alameida and is carrying on his work, transcribing the lost gospel of Christ, in the exact words of Jesus himself. When Cardinal Houseman (Jonathan Pryce) discovers this, he’s convinced that Frankie must be silenced before her provocative message destroys the Church.
As a high school freshman, I saw Stigmata on opening weekend. I was only 14 at the time, so I had to get an upstanding member of the Junior Class to buy me a ticket. At the time, I thought it was my generation’s answer to The Exorcist. It was 1999 after all, and the horror genre was making a comeback. That summer, films like The Blair Witch Project and the Sixth Sense terrified audiences, and we (the angst-ridden teens of the New Millennium) were hoping for something even scarier to shake us from the malaise of homework and high school dances.
16 years later, Stigmata feels extremely dated. Everyone’s wearing leather pants and fuzzy cardigans with chokers – spaghetti strap crop tops and sandals with platform foam soles. It was the age of Kid Rock and Creed, of JNCO jeans and chain wallets. The film’s soundtrack – curated by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan – is a bizarre mix of instrumental tracks and pop songs, including the unbearable “Mary Mary (Stigmatic Mix)” by Chumbawamba.
Still, Wainwright’s film is an interesting twist on The Exorcist and the countless possession stories rip-offs it inspired. Arquette and Byrne deliver solid performances, and while Arquette doesn’t quite channel the panic and fear of Linda Blair’s Regan or Jennifer Carpenter’s Emily Rose, Byrne is a quintessential spiritual warrior in the vein of Jason Miller’s Father Karras and Max von Sydow’s Father Merrin.
What’s most interesting about Stigmata is that it’s less of a horror film and more of a supernatural mystery-thriller like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons. The standard trappings of the possession film are there – the speaking in tongues, the sexual temptation – but there’s also an element of religious conspiracy and international intrigue that separates Stigmata from recent, lesser works like The Devil Inside and The Rite. Stigmata is extremely dated, but it’s worth a look for those who missed out on seeing it as a geeky high school freshman in JNCO jeans.
With a 1080p high-definition transfer (1.85:1) and a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track, this Blu-ray release of Stigmata is the best this film has ever looked. Distributed by Scream Factory, Stigmata is now available at Amazon. Check out a full list of bonus features, as well as a trailer and cover art, below!
* Audio Commentary with Director Rupert Wainwright
* Incredible but True – Stigmata: Marked For Life
* Divine Rights: The Story of Stigmata
* Music Video – “Identify” by Natalie Imbruglia
* Deleted Scenes and alternate Ending
* Theatrical Trailer