Written for Luther College Chips on October 14, 1999
“What is Stigmata?” doesn’t have quite the ring as say, “What is The Matrix?” and the answer to the question isn’t even remotely as interesting.
“Stigmata” centers on a young woman who is being systematically afflicted by the tortures that Jesus experienced at his crucifixion. Interwoven with this is a Vatican-sponsored detective who tries to find a rational explanation for the events.
Patricia Arquette plays the heroine of sorts, although the writers didn’t really didn’t make me care about her character. She’s introduced during the opening credits as she brings a stranger from a bar back to her place, and then shortly thereafter whines about being possibly pregnant. Gabriel Byrne (who, interestingly, will be playing Satan this November in Schwarzenegger’s “End of Days”) plays the part of the priest/detective. He spends much of the film acting like he is mentally slow. Jonathan Pryce, last seen in “Tomorrow Never Dies” as one of the more memorable Bond villains, is completely wasted in his small priest role.
The Catholic Church won’t be using “Stigmata” in their recruiting material any time soon. All of you Catholics out there will be pleased to see the church portrayed as corrupt and only concerned with maintaining its power base.
The Special Effects were surprisingly good, if limited. The frequent fires and incessantly destroyed rooms looked realistic enough. Moid covered his eyes like a terrified little lamb several times as gallons of blood shot all over the screen.
Unfortunately, newcomer director Rupert Wainwright tries way too hard to put us in an edgy mood. I found myself chuckling at the million or so candles that the heroine needed around her apartment. I guess they were trying to set an ere mood, but to me it just looked ridiculous.
Also ridiculous were the several instances where a quiet scene cut to a busy street and, in a cheap effort to make me jump, the sound of a car driving by was immediately blasted through the speakers. After two or three instances of this I was getting annoyed.
Admittedly there were a couple of really good, shocking scenes. Various religious symbolisms was employed in many of these and most of the really scary scenes were edited like a music video, constantly jumping to different images and doing a fairly effective job of keeping me off balance.
When it comes down to it though, I expect a religiously oriented horror film to throw in everything and the kitchen sink. I want the sky turning to blood. I want demons rising from the earth. “Stigmata” didn’t give me any of what I wanted. Instead, it gave me what would amount to a good 99 cent rental and not much more.