STIGMATA (1999) Reviews and overview

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‘The messenger must be silenced’
Stigmata is a 1999 American supernatural horror film directed by Rupert Wainwright (The Fog remake) from a screenplay by co-producer Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage. Co-producer Frank Mancuso Jr. produced all of the Paramount sequels to Friday the 13th (i.e., Parts 2–8), both April Fool’s Day films and the Species quartet.

The movie stars Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne (The Keep; Gothic; Vampire Academy), Jonathan Pryce (Something Wicked This Way Comes; The Doctor and the Devils), Nia Long, Rade Šerbedžija.

Produced on a $29 million budget, Stigmata grossed $89,446,268 worldwide at the box office before ancillary sales.




Plot synopsis:
In the Brazilian village of Belo Quinto, Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne), a former scientist and an ordained Jesuit priest investigates supposed miracles, examining a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe weeping blood at the funeral of Father Paulo Alameida (Jack Donner).

While Andrew is collecting evidence, a young boy steals the rosary from the father’s hand. The boy later sells it to a woman in a marketplace, who sends it to her atheist daughter Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) living in Pittsburgh.


Shortly after, Frankie is attacked by an unseen force while bathing, and receives two deep wounds on her wrists. As the wounds are treated, the doctors cannot find the cause beyond that they are puncture wounds and go all the way through the wrist. On the way home from work on the train, Frankie approaches a priest and asks if he is Andrew Kiernan.

After the priest tells her he is Father Derning, the lights in the train begin to flash, and Frankie is whipped from behind by an unseen force, Father Derning watching in horror. While Frankie is hospitalized again, the priest sends security tapes showing the attack to the Vatican, and Andrew is sent to investigate…




Stigmata is possibly the funniest movie ever made about Catholicism — from a theological point of view. Mainstream audiences will view it as a lurid horror movie, an The Exorcist wannabe, but for students of the teachings of the church, it offers endless goofiness. It confuses the phenomenon of stigmata with satanic possession, thinks stigmata can be transmitted by relics and portrays the Vatican as a conspiracy against miracles.’


‘Is there an eighth deadly sin called “narcissistic direction”? I guess it would go under “pride.” You never saw such an orgy of overwrought stylistics. Musically, the soundtrack is shrouded with pop-style doom and gloom, a hipster’s cacophony of rhythm and ruse. Wainwright, whose head might rotate if I whispered “subtlety” too loudly, meets nothing he can’t render in a monstrous close-up, or a doubled image, or in extreme slow motion. It’s a miracle our eyes don’t bleed.’ The Washington Post


‘ …a silly, roiling melange of special effects and overheated religious symbolism that at first seems to be about the Second Coming but turns out to be a half-baked anticlerical screed involving Vatican politics. Although the trailer for the movie presents Stigmata as a kind of ”Son of the Exorcist,” its glimpses of hell have none of the force or ingenuity of its deeply scary forerunner. Instead of spewed pea soup, spinning heads and the harsh voices of the possessed growling obscenities, Stigmata gives us lots of broken glass, bird feathers, dripping blood and desperately fancy camera angles.’ The New York Times


‘You do not expect to find religion and spirituality in a horror film, but Stigmata successfully weaves the three together. The film enacts studied descriptions of mystical and demonic possessions, filmed to occur amidst ordinary people. The resulting story provides some excitement, some arguments in favor of spirituality, and some attacks on the corrupt and competitive character of the Roman Catholic Church.’ Journal of Religion and Film




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