Director – Rupert Wainwright
Cast – Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Thomas Kopache, Rade Serbedzija, Enrico Colantoni, Dick Latessa, Portia de Rossi
Release Year – 1999
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had always wanted to see Stigmata ever since its debut over a decade ago, and while my friends told me to stay away from this film my love for religious horror sucked me in and Stigmata became the newest film to give me a cool idea with bad results.
After receiving a stolen rosary from the sight of a religious miracle, hairdresser Frankie Page(Patricia Arquette; A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) begins to exhibit the Stigmata, a series of physical wounds identical to those Jesus Christ received from his crucifixion. Father Andrew Kiernan(Gabriel Byrne; Ghost Ship, End of Days), a scientist turned researcher of miracles employed by the Vatican, is sent to acquire the truth behind Frankie’s haunting condition. As Father Kiernan’s investigation progresses, he is faced with questions he is unable to answer, and soon learns that Frankie’s condition is in direct relation to a long-lost Gospel of Jesus Christ that would lead to disaster for the Catholic Church.
If you know me then you know I love any horror associated with the Catholic Church. I am not a Catholic by any means, but their deep and dark history fascinates me and when mixed with the horror genre usually gives me a story that I find engaging. While I thought the overall story that Stigmata provides was pretty interesting, it comes with poor execution and many holes from writer Tom Lazarus, a Lazarus that I doubt would be able to rise from the dead. The film starts off interesting, but sadly when Frankie begins to experience the Stigmata things went downhill and stayed at a mediocre level throughout the film’s 103 minute runtime. I don’t know if he meant this or not, but he wrote our lead character Frankie to be completely unlikable. If he meant to do so then I must say it is one of the few things that he accomplished in this film, and if it did not mean so then that does not surprise me very much. We are given small glimpses of positive ideas when Father Kiernan begins investigating the reasoning behind Frankie’s Stigmata, which is an experience usually reserved for devout Catholics, not an atheist like Frankie. Unfortunately that is about as much positives as the story has to offer, and Rupert Wainwright(The Fog remake, Blank Check)’s direction does not help.
Often times we will be given a storyline/screenplay that comes with many faults and poor execution, but a good directing job will lift the mediocrity into the positives, but that did not happen for us with Stigmata. Instead, Wainwright mirrored Lazarus’ screenplay with mediocre direction and poor execution of the little positives the film had to offer. His visuals are nice at least, but he ruins them with crappy editing techniques that would later be used to ruin countless DTV(Direct-To-Video) releases as well as Saw V. To make matters worse, lead actor Patricia Arquette gives a terrible and unlikable performance as Frankie, with Gabriel Byrne being the only actor with a performance worth viewing.
Overall, Stigmata is a film that could have come off a great watch with its interesting story blending the Roman Catholic Church and the horror scene, but sadly both poor writing and direction kept this from anything other than a mediocre watch.