This Week In Horror Movie History – Stigmata (1999)

This week in Horror movie history, back on Friday, September 10th in 1999, Stigmata debuted in theaters across the USA. 

Now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, if for some reason you are not in the know, the premise of Stigmata revolves around a woman named Frankie (Patricia Arquette: Medium series, Boyhood 2014), an Atheist who is attacked by unseen forces, kicking off an entire series of horrific events that seemingly echo the stigmata of Jesus Christ. Enter Jesuit priest, Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne: Miller’s Crossing 1990, The Usual Suspects 1995), who investigates supposed miracles and is sent by the Vatican to study Frankie’s situation. As the pair attempt to forge an unlikely friendship, and with her condition deteriorating quickly, Father Andrew must work against time to solve the mystery of her wounds.

Stigmata still. © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc

Directed by Rupert Wainwright (Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em: The Movie 1990, The Fog 2005), Stigmata featured an impressive cast that also included Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies 1997, The Wife 2017); Thomas Kopache (Leaving Las Vegas 1995, Catch Me If You Can 2002); Rade Serbedzija (The Saint 1997, Batman Begins 2005); Nia Long (Big Momma’s House 2000, The Best Man Holiday 2013); Enrico Colantoni (A.I. Artificial Intelligence 2001, Veronica Mars series); Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development series, Cursed 2005); Patrick Muldoon (Melrose Place series, Starship Troopers 1997); and many more.

Supernatural Horror was certainly a big mood in Summer 1999, with Indie Horror sensation The Blair Witch Project altering the entire game, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense blowing audiences out of their boots, and Kevin Bacon’s Stir of Echoes making a solid showing, as well. Taking a religious bent on the sub-genre and then adding into the mix body horror, Stigmata forged its own path—one that met with some seriously mixed results.

Stigmata still. © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc

Of the myriad Supernatural Horror flicks to debut in and around September 1999, Stigmata is one that does not hold the same reputation as its contemporaries. It was panned by many audiences and critics alike, with Bryne going on to be nominated for an infamous Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor. This did not staunch the film’s commercial success, however, and it debuted in the No. 1 position at the box office, earning the distinguishment of being the first film in five weekends to outgross The Sixth Sense.

It certainly can’t be ignored that Stigmata seemingly paved the way for the December 1999 release of the Arnold Schwarzenegger-helmed End of Days, which ironically starred Byrne as the devil and was also nominated for Razzie Awards. As for Stigmata, love it or hate it, the fact remains that for many younger viewers at the time, the film would be their first experience with Religious Horror, one that would cause them to dig deeper and locate timeless classics such as The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976). For this, Stigmata serves as a kind of Horror gateway drug: an introduction to a sub-genre fraught with time-honored classics.

Stigmata still. © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc

So, whether you place Stigmata at the upper echelon of Religious Horror offerings or not, the fact remains that in September 1999, it was topping the box office and audiences were filling seat and devouring popcorn as they learned of the bloody horrors of crucifixion.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc

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