Overall Grade: (B-)
A compelling religious thriller that has all the impressions of “The Exorcist” but with a much more layered meaning to its message.
It has been sixteen-years since this films release but to this day it still holds its relevance as a solid religious thriller. Unlike films in the genre today that use the theme to try and fill a generic story-line with as many jump-scenes or intentions of fright with gore and violent imagery to make a good horror film, this one made you think. There was a lot going on in the script that could have easily been missed with its subtly.
The story-line brushed slightly on the historical secrecy religious sects and the inner workings of the hierarchy of the Catholic church. It also developed a good character played by Gabriel Byrne who perfectly illustrated the emotions of a priest who had not ‘lost’ his faith in his religion but possibly some faith in his church, and those in control. He played the conflicted man well and despite the differences in the two lead characters there was still a believable chemistry between them.
The legend of the ‘Stigmata’ is well detailed in this film and it was a controversial angle the film seemed to take by not holding back any of its intentions, nor its feelings on the structure of the Vatican. Patricia Arquette was great in the lead role and was a major aspect in the enjoyable package this film delivers. She clearly dove into the role of Frankie and from her youthful arrogance, her scenes of demonic possession and her at times vulnerability were all intriguing.
There were definitely some violent scenes during the possessions that make this film the true dark thriller it is but the filmmakers relied more on the characters and the story to pull the film along and not the grisly imagery. For that aspect you can appreciate the ambition but there was still some lack of cohesion in the story that keep it from being a truly great film.
The pace was relatively good but it did seem to slow down a lot late in the second-act. There were also some flaws along the way that were hard to go unnoticed but for the most part it didn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the plot. I was not sure why a devout man of faith would return as a violent entity and to possess a non-religious young woman but regardless it still provided for an edgier tone. There was also no explanation of the repetitive water drop scenes as well as her friends concern at time, but not real concern in other moments that came across as unrealistic.
Overall without trying too hard to pick apart this film is to this day still a unique watch. It will entertain and give you enough story-line to make you think, and with a collection of strong performances the characters can be connected with enough to reel you in to see what will happen. If this film was released these days it may have been rated even higher compared to the campy horror films themed with religious related possessions that are released today.