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Stigmata

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Stigmata

Starring: Patricia Arquette, Jonathan Pryce
Director: Rupert Wainwright
Rated: R
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: September 1999
Genres: Drama, Horror, Religion, Thriller


*Also starring: Gabriel Byrne, Nia Long, Patrick Muldoon, Jack Donner



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Greg King review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewvideo review
3.  Susan Granger read the review movie review
4.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
5.  Ken read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Greg King
3 stars out of 4

It's rare to find a spooky religious thriller that is also quite intelligent and doesn't lose the plot amidst a welter of meaningless effects and nonsense. Admittedly, Stigmata is often reminiscent of earlier films like The Exorcist, The Omen and the risible Demi Moore thriller The Seventh Sign, but this thriller about possession is grounded in some solid concepts and ideas that push the material in different directions.

Although primarily a supernatural thriller, Stigmata also deals with themes of organised religion versus true faith, and is shaped by some in-depth research into the Bible and Biblical history. It also explores internal politics and corruption within the Vatican, where cliques of ambitious priests have built their own solid power base. But these potentially contentious and worthwhile ideas are occasionally let down by some cliched, Exorcist inspired touches, such as possessed people speaking in strange voices, levitation, spontaneously moving furniture, etc.

Gabriel Byrne (recently seen as the devil in End Of Days) plays Father Andrew Kiernan, a Vatican priest with a scientific background, who travels the world disproving so-called miracles. He is sent to Pittsburgh to handle the case of a young woman who is reportedly afflicted with "stigmata" - unexplained, bloody marks corresponding with the wounds suffered by Christ on the cross. Frankie (Patricia Arquette, from True Romance, etc) is a young hairdresser, who is not particularly religious, and who is bewildered and scared by the mysterious events that have suddenly haunted her. Kiernan discovers that she is possessed by the spirit of a devout South American priest who recently died. But there are some within the church who would rather silence Frankie than have what she represents revealed to the world. Kiernan finds his own beliefs tested by helping Frankie.

In a physically demanding role, Arquette is superb, capturing both a vulnerability and inner strength that grounds her performance in reality. Byrne is also very good, and he gives a much more intelligent and restrained performance here than in End Of Days.

British-born director Rupert Wainwright (the bland Disney comedy Blank Check, etc) hails from a background in commercials and music videos, and these origins are evident in the distinctive and stylish visuals and overall production design. Especially striking is the opening credit sequence, which combines the back story to Stigmata with eerie visuals, and which has become almost commonplace now through films like Seven, Resurrection and End Of Days, etc.

The film is also heavily drenched in symbolism - dripping water, fire, blood, breaking glass, and flying doves - all filmed in slow motion and close up, and accompanied by an evocative music score by Billy Corgan, from The Smashing Pumpkins. Jeffrey Kimball's cinematography is also beautifully moody and adds to the edgy quality of this effective and surprisingly entertaining horror thriller.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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