Stigmata - Blu-ray Review

'Soaked in '90s stylised execution which now sticks out like the proverbial painful primary digit'.

Critically panned when it was released in 1999 - including a Worst Supporting Actor Golden Raspberry nomination shared with End Of Days for Gabriel Byrne (he lost to Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace) - there's no doubt that Stigmata hasn't aged well in many respects. Despite being released towards the end of the decade, the film is regularly soaked in '90s stylised execution which now sticks out like the proverbial painful primary digit.

Editing comparisons to MTV may seem trite but are unquestionably accurate. Many of the film's supernatural sequences expose director Rupert Wainwright's earlier career in music videos, with the editing at a few points throughout proving clunky to the point of distraction. The soundtrack by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is also particularly jarring - it's hard to think of a time since the film's release when much of the original music on offer wouldn't have sounded dated.

Wainwright's direction is somewhat on the nose in its use of religious iconography, going for the obvious where the subtle would undoubtedly have worked better: when Frankie (Patricia Arquette) receives the first of her stigmata, for example, she's in a bath surrounded by church candles and has just taken a bite out of an apple. The director's influences from both contemporary and classic cinema are also worn on his sleeve. The Exorcist is the most obvious, but Stigmata also takes clear structural and aesthetic cues from Seven, a decision by Wainwright which only serves to highlight that his is undoubtedly the inferior film.

The narrative intertwines the main plot following Father Andrew Kiernan's (Byrne) investigation of Frankie's stigmata with a secondary focus upon the clandestine wielding of authority within the Catholic Church. Whilst matters do fall apart during the final act as these two threads come together, for much of the running time Wainwright manages to make Stigmata an engaging if increasingly schlocky experience. Byrne is fine - nowhere near as bad as his Razzie nod suggests - and whilst Arquette's role necessitates an exaggerated performance at a number of points throughout, she too does well. Jonathan Pryce is also enjoyable, employing some of his Bond villain techniques from Tomorrow Never Dies two years earlier to craft an effective antagonist in the shady Cardinal Houseman.

Whilst Stigmata is both muddled and unrefined, it's also nowhere near as bad as many would have you believe. Wainwright's film may not have aged nearly as well as many other examples of '90s cinema, but it feels unfair to hate a film which regularly manages to engage and entertain despite its undeniable faults.

Stigmata is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 17th October.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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