Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) is a Vatican investigator. He is currently in Brazil, examining a statue of the Virgin Mary that has wept blood ever since the death of the local priest. But the priest’s rosary has been stolen, and sold to an unwitting American tourist who has sent it to Pittsburgh as a present for her daughter. Soon after receiving her mother’s gift, hairdresser Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) begins to suffer violent supernatural attacks. Wounds that resemble the stigmata – a physical manifestation of the injuries Jesus Christ received during the crucifixion – appear on her wrists and forehead, and deep gashes slit open her back like whip-strokes. In Vatican City, Cardinal Houseman (Jonathan Pryce) has forbidden Andrew Kiernan from continuing his research on the statue. Instead, he sends Kiernan to the US, to investigate Frankie’s stigmata. As the severity of Frankie’s wounds increase, Kiernan realises that she has been possessed by a very unique spirit and chosen to convey an ancient message which will shatter the foundations of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Houseman can’t let that happen, and the stigmata is now not the only thing threatening Frankie’s life.

In this reviewer’s opinion, Stigmata got a raw deal when it was first released in January 2000 and quickly lost amid the tide of dreadful ‘new millennium/antichrist apocalypse’ horrors like ‘End of Days’ (which also starred Byrne, this time in the bad guy role), ‘Lost Souls’, ‘Bless the Child’ and Friedkin’s revised ‘The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen’. If critics were to be believed, Stigmata really couldn’t win: some accused it of jumping on ‘The Exorcist’ bandwagon (wrong), some cited director Rupert Wainwright’s music video background and said Stigmata was merely style over substance (a lazy claim to make and not really true), and more than a few people in Catholic circles were completely outraged by the film’s mere existence (oh please!). The fact is, Stigmata is a good looking supernatural thriller with an intriguing central premise, some terrific performances, a great musical score courtesy of Elia Cmiral and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, and a screenplay that – even though it doesn’t have the intellectual depth it needs to really pull off some of its more controversial ideas, and if you examine it for too long the internal story logic quickly falls to pieces – is still far more intelligent and thought-provoking than most films in the genre. If nothing else, the fact that it gave the possession scenario a deft new twist and conjured up a religious conspiracy / biblical cover-up three years before Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was even published, should all prove what a forward-thinking film Stigmata is. Wainwright’s direction is worth congratulating as well – yes, very occasionally his visuals do look too MTV-slick but that doesn’t detract from the narrative, and who says that horror films can’t also be gorgeous to look at? Wainwright took valuable time on his shot construction and visual design, and the skip bleaching process he used to mute certain colours while emphasising the black and whites often makes Stigmata quite a beautiful film to watch… which brings us very nicely to Eureka’s new blu-ray presentation.

Okay, so obviously I’m a big fan of this movie (although you’ll no doubt have appreciated how manfully I’ve attempted to hide that fact) and many people might read this and consider me biased (they could have a point), but Eureka have done some outstanding work here. This bluray is unsurprisingly light years ahead of previous lacklustre DVD releases, with a hi-def transfer that literally pops off the screen and a soundtrack that really highlights the subtle complexities of Corgan and Cmiral’s musical score. Eureka have even supplied an isolated music and effects track that is worth dipping into after you’ve watched the film, and is a really nice addition (as well as being a masterclass of how visuals and music can tell a story with no dialogue required). The other special features have all been ported over from earlier DVD’s and include a friendly and informative movie-length commentary from Wainwright, a brief but interesting documentary called Divine Rights: The Story of Stigmata (the physical stigmata, not the making of the film), deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a Natalie Imbruglia music video (she sings the end title song). The only extra feature we don’t get, which the US bluray did, is a second documentary about the stigmata phenomena called ‘Incredible But True’. It’s a good documentary which would have been nice to see included on Eureka’s disc but the US don’t get the isolated score, so it’s all a bit swings and roundabouts really.

For fans of Stigmata this is an essential purchase. For those who haven’t seen the film before, or weren’t too impressed the first go-around, it’s time to respectively give Stigmata a chance or be prepared to revise their opinions. If a genre film ever deserved re-evaluation, Stigmata is it. Very highly recommended.

Blu-Ray Review: Stigmata
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About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white