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Critics usually go out of the way to savage horror movies, it comes as no surprise STIGMATA ($25) is actually a much better horror flick than the harsh reviews would indicate. STIGMATA stars Patricia Arquette as Frankie Paige, a Pittsburgh hairdresser who begins to exhibit spontaneous wounds on her body that the doctors cannot explain. After an encounter with a Catholic Priest on a subway, Vatican investigator Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) visits Frankie and explains to her that she may be suffering from the Stigmata- the living wounds of the crucified Christ. Since Frankie is a self acknowledged atheist and the Stigmata only afflicts the deeply religious, Father Kiernan initially thinks that Frankieís mysterious wounds stem from a cause other than supernatural.

However, after further observation, Father Kiernan realizes that Frankie is a genuine Stigmatic, and that her wounds are only the tip of the spiritual iceberg. Soon after developing additional Stigmatic wounds, Frankie begins speaking in ancient Aramaic- a language that hasnít been heard since the time of Christ and his dispels. However, when Frankie begins writing out a text in that ancient language, Cardinal Houseman (Jonathan Pryce) becomes alarmed that the message of this Stigmatic could lead to the destruction of the Catholic Church. The cast of STIGMATA also features Nia Long, Thomas Kopache, Rade Sherbedgia, Enrico Colantoni, Dick Latessa, Portia DeRossi and Patrick Muldoon.

MGM Home Entertainment has done a great job with their special edition DVD of STIGMATA. STIGMATA is presented in 16:9 enhanced wide screen, but does offer viewers a choice of watching the theatrical cut, or the completed film with the directorís alternate ending. Both versions frame the film at 2.35:1 and the transfer is truly excellent. The image is usually sharply defined, with a very strong level of detail. STIGMATA has a highly stylized look that was achieved photo-chemically during the printing process, with the transfer perfectly reflecting the filmmakerís intentions. The effect is of the specialized printing process is striking- the filmís colors have an otherworldly quality about them, plus contrast within the image tends to be harsh. Because of the way that the film was printed, there are a few shots in the film that appear soft, but it isnít a deficiency in the transfer. Color saturation varies between muted and intense. Cold blues and greens look very good, as do the warmer hues. Blood reds are an intense full-bodied crimson that are perfectly reproduced without chroma noise or bleeding. Flesh tones usually appear natural, except in scenes where the filmmakerís were going for a supernatural effect. Blacks are accurately recreated, although shadow detail is somewhat lessened in places by the way the film was printed. Digital compression artifacts are negligible thanks to the use of dual layer technology on this well authored DVD.

STIGMATA features a dynamite Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that fully takes advantage of the format. The sound mix is very aggressive, swirling sound effects around the viewer to create an enveloping atmosphere and haunting sonic experience. Channel separation is outstanding in the front, as well as in the split surrounds, with sounds panning around the entire soundstage in a very convincing manner. Dialogue is well reproduced, maintaining intelligibility within the strong presence of sound effects and music. The bass channel delivers a solid bottom end to the soundtrack, which is neither overwhelming nor fatiguing. A Dolby Digital 5.1 channel French soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus are cool looking, incorporating animation full motion video and sound. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVDís nice complement of supplements. Director Rupert Wainwright provides an interesting running commentary that gives a deal good of technical information on the production of the film. Also included are several deleted scenes from the movie, a music video by Natalie Imbruglia and a theatrical trailer.

STIGMATA is an entertaining and intriguing horror offering that fans of the genre will enjoy, not only for the film, but for MGM Home Entertainmentís terrific DVD.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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