Retro Review: Stigmata (1999)

I traveled back to the end of the world over the weekend and watched a couple of later, somewhat horror films, End of Days and Stigmata.  I remember post-Y2k watching these two movies very often and even back to back.  They really don’t have too much in common, other than they both have Gabriel Byrne in the film, one as a priest and the other as Satan.  I couldn’t tell you which movie I prefer, but there is something about the legends broached in Stigmata that I may lean towards it over End of Days.  But, there are some good films from 1999.

Synopsis:

A young woman with no strong religious beliefs, Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) begins having strange and violent experiences, showing signs of the wounds that Jesus received when crucified. When the Vatican gets word of Frankie’s situation, a high-ranking cardinal (Jonathan Pryce) requests that the Rev. Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) investigate her case. Soon Kiernan realizes that very sinister forces are at work, and tries to rescue Frankie from the entity that is plaguing her.

Some of these movies from the mid to late 1990s were filmed very similarly.  But, Stigmata, well it felt very MTV and is a product of its time.  I mean, it does take place in 1999, but you can tell.  Where, yes back to End of Days, it could fit almost anywhere, if not set in 1999.  The story is very interesting as there is an actual conspiracy about the Gospel of St. Thomas, which are said to be the closest thing to the words of Jesus, if you believe in that sort of thing.  But of course the Catholic Church refuses to recognize the document and considers it heresy.  That part really interests me, as well the action of the Stigmata.  But, it was a strange concept to me at the time I saw the movie.

Watching the movie again after, possibly 15 years or more I had the chance to examine the story, the way the film was shot and the acting.  Firstly, the film is in some ways messy.  I think some of the things were forced and felt bizarre.  Frankie(Patricia Arquette) is instantly attracted to the a priest who comes in to her salon.  This is of course, Gabriel Byrne and sure, he is a handsome man, but the gap in age and she just has no shame, he was wearing the collar.  The growth of their relationship over a few days was interesting and, it was ok to deal with.

Some of the things I did like, the randomness of when the “stigmata attacks” would happen.  I did like they would happen in public and the editing during the attacks is another sign of the times, films in and around 1999 had this style of editing.  I thought it was really well done and seeing it years later really made me want more of the late-90s film style.

Overall, the movie doesn’t really feel like a horror movie, but it holds up pretty well and I still really enjoyed it.  I will say, it feels was shorter than I remember.  But, for a late-90s “horror” film it isn’t bad at all.  Let’s remember, the 1990s in horror, well it was probably the weakest decade of horror, possibly of all time.  But Stigmata is kind of a stand out.  It is worth a shot, check it out.

IMDB.com has a rating of 6.2

I give Stigmata a rating of 6.0

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About Ray Marek III 497 Articles
I have been watching horror films since I was 6 years old. The story, one Saturday night, my mom and I were watching movies and she fell asleep on the couch. We had the channel set on HBO and the movie we were watching ended and the next one, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This was some time in 1986. I watched then entire film, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. When my mom woke, she asked me what just ended and I told her, “Freddy”. That was all I talked about for weeks and finally she broke down and rented more horror films for me. She rented, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2, Re-Animator, Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives and Halloween II. I watched all and fell in love with horror films forever. 5 Horror Films to Watch Inferno (1980) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) The Beyond (1981) Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) Horror of Dracula (1958)