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By Scott Knopf | October 20, 2011

Gabriel (Janusz Madej), a conman posing as a psychic, relies on a relatively simple system of props and electronics to tell his clients exactly what they want to hear.  He brings messages of forgiveness and reconciliation from the grave.  The setup is simple and the money is good.  None of his visitors have caught on to the ruse and if it weren’t for the gruesome nightmares then life would be grand (haunting images of a Christ figure experiencing stigmata—whips, thorns, etc.—have a funny way of ruining a good night’s sleep).

To make matters worse, he wakes up to find gashes and wounds on his body without any explanation of how they got there.  A self-described “Not A Catholic,” Gabriel turns to a priest, Father Nolan (Frank Mavros), for some guidance.  Together, they discuss issues of faith, service, and purpose—all of which interweave themselves into Gabriel’s encounter with Olympia (Michelle Renee Allaire), a hysterical woman who has just been told (by a doctor) that she’ll never have children.

Stigma’s writer, director and star, Janusz Madej, is watching his hard work pay off.  His thesis film from The Los Angeles Film School is making the festival rounds where it will most likely be met with a slew of positive reviews (like this one).  Thirty minute shorts are notorious for editing problems, overlong and unnecessary scenes, and a lack of tautness.  Stigma doesn’t have any of these issues.  Thanks to talented performers, engrossing special effects, and a captivating script, the half hour flies by. 

The nightmare sequences are graphic, violent, and serve a better purpose than merely eliciting controversy.  Stigma doesn’t push buttons just to push them.  The film is a character-driven look into what faith can mean for different people—faith can provide but it can also demand.  Aside from some weak musical choices (at times, the score sounds cheap and distracting, although the film’s main theme is strong) and a misstep involving stripper f******o, Stigma is a strong showing of the Madej’s talent both behind and in front of the camera.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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