I’ve always been a bit leery of religious-based (or themed) films. I’ll come right out and say that I’m not the most religious person out there and probably never will be. I don’t have anything against anyone who is (or isn’t) deeply religious and, truth be told, I wish I had it in me to believe. I simply do not possess that. And I’d say that odds are as long as movies are made, there will continue to be films about religion, good and evil, God and the Devil and so forth. Hey, it’s worked for a few thousand years – so why stop now? I’m not sure I believe in stigmata any more than I’d believe in an exorcism (and I’m Catholic). To have superficial wounds that replicated those that Christ was burdened with or to be possessed by a demon…I just find it hard to believe that things like that happen. Still, there are plenty out there that do believe it. For what it’s worth, this little gem from 1999 focused on one of these two events, so let’s see if it’s worth 100 minutes out of our lives.
On the surface Stigmata is a supernatural suspense story about good, evil, and faith. Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) is a hair stylist in her mid-20s who has no strong religious convictions until odd things start happening to her after she’s given a rosary by her mother: she begins speaking with another person’s voice; unknown and unseen forces start to attack her; and she develops stigmata, bleeding wounds that spontaneously appear on her wrists, feet, and side, as Christ was wounded at Calvary. Some people believe that a holy miracle has been visited on Frankie, though no one can say why. A Cardinal from the Vatican (Jonathan Pryce) sends a priest, Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne), to investigate Frankie and her condition; after getting a first-hand look, Father Andrew finds himself less concerned with whether Frankie’s wounds are a legitimate miracle and more concerned with saving her life.
Stigmata is both visually and mentally stunning, the effects in the film are real cool and very well done. True you might need a strong stomach to view some of the torture scenes, but this is a great movie and not an Exorcist rip off in any way (for some reason people are saying that). The movie really makes you think and cringe all at the same time, and if your into supernatural-biblical type movies, this has your name written all over it! The film was directed by Rupert Wainwright and personally I think he did an awesome job at directing an awesome script. All the people that complained about this film making waves in the church and the Catholic belief. Stop looking for something to complain about and realize this is a movie, for the purpose of entertainment, and a damn good one. Gabriel Byrne is very good in the role of father Kiernan, he just looks like a priest to me for some reason. Patricia Arquette is also outstanding in the role of Frankie, and she’s also a hottie! The emotion and punishment that she goes through is perfectly acted out by Arquette.
Video: How’s it look?
Admittedly it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen the film. I vaguely remember the MGM DVD when it came out and I’ve not seen the film since then. So when popping in the Scream Factory Blu-ray I was anxious to see how this looked. The 2.35:1 AVC HD image isn’t bad by any means, but right away I noticed a few artifacts in some of the darker scenes (and this movie has them in spades). Contrast looked solid, though it just didn’t seem to have the depth that some of the newer Blu-ray’s have. Detail looks stunning and it’s a bit sad to see how good Patricia Arquette looked not too long ago. While this is an improvement over the previous DVD, this isn’t one of the shining examples of the Blu-ray format. It’s good, but not great.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The upgraded DTS HD Master Audio mix, however, is a bit more impressive than the video quality. There are some moments that really had my head turning as the film does contain several supernatural elements. The LFE have a major role in some of the third act and while the room is humming away, the vocals are rich, pure and crisp. Surrounds are active during a few scenes, though the front stage seems to shoulder the burden of the majority of the film. Like the video, it’s an improvement over the previous Dolby Digital 5.1 track and it’s a worthy upgrade.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The supplements seem to be the same as those on the previous MGM DVD from 15 years ago. I’m assuming the only reason this is seeing the light of day is that it features newly-crowned Academy Award winner Patricia Arquette. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at what’s included.
Audio Commentary – Director Rupert Wainwright offers up a pretty informative and technical commentary track. Namely he’s more visual in nature and spent a lot of time looking at the way the movie was to be shot and appear.
Deleted Scenes – Several are included, though none are mind-blowing regarding content.
Divine Rites – A short featurette that doesn’t offer up a lot of information, but rather serves as a reference point? I was a bit confused.
Incredible but True – The most robust feature on the disc is actually a 45 minute feature originally shown on the History channel. If you want true “facts” then this is the place to start.
Music Video – “Identify” by Natalie Imbruglia.
The Bottom Line
In the realm of supernatural, religious-themed films I’d say Stigmata stands somewhere in the middle. It’s not a bad film, it’s got a relatively solid cast and has some genuinely intriguing moments. The Blu-ray offers up the same supplements as the previous DVD with upgraded audio and video. There’s really nothing to complain about and I’m sure fans of the film will have no problem snatching this one up.