A wishy washy Horror take on the stigmata.
Being raised Christian, obviously a movie about a person having stigmata wounds is appealing. Turning it into a horror, I thought, would be more interesting – yes and no.
Directed by Rupert Wainwright, best known for the terrible remake of The Fog, Stigmata tells the tale of a 23 year old hairdresser named Frankie, a self confessed atheist and party animal, who begins showing the marks of the stigmata (crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ on the cross) after receiving a gift from her mother which turns out to be rosary beads which she bought from a kid who stole it from a dead priest, Father Alamedia.
A Catholic American priest named Andrew Kiernan, living in Rome, is assigned by the Vatican to investigate the matter, but when the media begins picking up on the story, the ramifications could have a severe impact on not only the church but the priest's faith as Frankie's life is at risk.
The story is interesting enough. Not everyday you get to see a movie about someone having the stigmata and doing it well, for the most part. The film did a excellent job of explaining what the stigmata actually is and its history (nice one Rupert).
The stigmata angle is passable. The best parts is when she is being inflicted with the wounds and trying to live a normal life, but is unable to do so, so the psychological aspect is intriguing. It kind of gets convoluted when she ends up being possessed by a certain deceased spirit. It just didn't make sense as to why this spirit would be vengeful and inflict pain on this poor lady. And by the end it got rather ridiculous when the church gets involved and a when a cardinal and a priest try to commit murder in the name of the church – it's rather stupid.
In saying that, the stigmata and supernatural possession scenes were magnificent and made for a good visual and might even send chills down your spine.
The backdrop of a rain soaked Pittsburgh was perfect. Water plays a significant part in the film - Frankie's first stigmata attack happens as she is in the bathtub.
The soundtrack and special effects are quite impressive and make an uneven story seem tense and frightening. Particularly the scenes as Frankie is being attacked by unseen force. The jumbling and messy soundtrack that accompanies is perfect.
The best thing about Stigmata is the performances. Patricia Arquette as the main protagonist and stigmata sufferer is very convincing. Playing a free spirit and party animal came very naturally for her but even more outstanding when she begun to suffer.
Her friends including Nia Long (Big Momma's House), while only a supporting role, played a critical role in the film and to the Frankie character. Gabriel Byrne (Usual Suspects, In Treatment) as Father Andrew Kiernan was the heart of the film. You could tell he was torn between being a priest, a scientist and even being a friend to Frankie. Byrne is always impressive and how he was nominated for a Razzie award for this performance is criminal.
The villain of the film, if you want to call him that, is Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Cardinal Daniel Houseman. He comes off as smug at the start and is even worse as the story goes on and is always thinking what would happen to the church if news of Frankie's stigmata broke out.
Overall, it's an interesting take on the stigmata phenomenon. While it had some compelling ideas and the performances were great, the story goes south by the end and some things didn't make sense but it never gets boring.