The Film (2/5)
Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) has the thankless job of investigating miracles and trying to disprove them, and uncover anyone trying to pull a fast one on the Catholic Church. While exploring a Church in Brazil, Kiernan discovers an unexplainable case of possession, with a statue of Jesus and the Virgin Mary bleeding. Nothing can be proved logically, and a dead possessed priest’s rosary has gone missing. The Rosary has been given to a hairdresser named Frankie (Patricia Arquette) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shortly after wearing it, Frankie is suddenly attacked by Stigmata, a phenomenon in where the victim is wounded in the exact same spots as Jesus on the cross. Word on the strange goings on is reported to cardinal Houseman (Jonathan Pryce), who assigns Kiernan to the case. But things don’t quite add up, when he discovers that Frankie is an atheist, and his faith is put to the test.
STIGMATA (1999) is a very disappointing film, because all the ingredients are there and seem fresh, but the cook and the temperature are way off. The subject matter is been there done that kind of tertiary, but lesser movies have used the subject matter of possession and became highly entertaining. There’s a battle of two type of films here, with possession in the mode of THE EXORCIST (1973), and questioning one’s faith like ABSOLUTION (1978), but neither is well developed. Then comes the film’s biggest problem, striking visuals destroyed by terrible music video editing and sudden jump scare type music drops.
The editing in STIGMATA is just dreadful, with every bad 90’s trick in the book used. Slow motion to hyper fast motion, sudden sped up black and white footage, Dutch angles cutting into reserve shots, all here. And the thing is just a mess. Some decent character scenes are stripped of their impact by sudden flash forwards or intercutting to random stock footage. It’s no surprise when you consider that director Rupert Wainwright came from directing music videos. The use of music is also terribly dated. The “jump scares” just make everything come off as embarrassing. The actual soundtrack is fine, but having it sliced into bits and sprinkled throughout just adds to the cheapness, and it doesn’t seem scary but annoying.
Despite the bad script and editing, the cast handle the material as best as we can hope for. Patricia Arquette (TRUE ROMANCE) seems lost in the movie, going from screaming to annoyed, to drugged up. Some of the hammy performance is quite unintentionally funny, when she runs out into the street screaming at a baby, while the camera zooms and tracks along. Gabriel Byrne (MILLER’S CROSSING) gives the movie’s best performance with some genuine emotion and a couple of powerful close-ups. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Jonathan Pryce (BRAZIL, RONIN), who classes up the movie with his presence but ultimately looks bored to be there.
Eureka has given this lackluster film a handsome sound mix and transfer on Region B Blu-ray and Region 2 DVD. The first audio track is the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Up until the hour and 3 min mark of the film, the mix is near perfect, but after, the movie has a wildly uneven sound mix with random drops in volume. The second track is the English uncompressed Stereo LPCM Mix. It sounds about the same on my TV set up, but your mileage may vary. The next track is the Isolated Music and effects track, which highlights the wildly uneven mix of effects and sudden music stings. English subtitles are included.
The 1080p HD transfer is slick with some well-balanced black levels, and sparkling colors. The blues, and other darker colors stand out the best, with some minor fade in the rest. The color correction looks too bright in some scenes, especially during the ending fire. The CGI stands out like a bad thumb. Some very close ups seem glitchy, with the actor’s faces shaking a little. The rest of the transfer is clean and has a great amount of detail. Pieces of candy glass are clearly visual and you can count the individual pieces.
First up is a quiet and spaced out Audio Commentary with director Rupert Wainwright. There’s a lot of dead air, and I would suggest skipping it. Divine Rights: Story of Stigmata, is a mini-documentary on the phenomena of stigmata and some of the actual cases. The short is Justas clumsily edited as the movie itself. A series of deleted scenes are up next. The Alternate ending is included, as well as the trailer and a music video for the song “Identity”.
STIGMATA is a big mess with a few shiny hammy performances. But the movie is hacked together with terrible editing, and it quickly lost me. The whole movie resembles a Calvin Kline commercial, but that’s not always a good thing. Eureka’s Blu-ray DVD combo has a handsome transfer, so if you’re a fan it may be worth your time. Skip it.
*DVD has the same features as the Blu-ray.