Stigmata (1999) / Horror

MPAA Rated: R for intense violent sequences, language and some sexuality
Running Time: 103 min.

Cast: Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Thomas Kopache
Director: Rupert Wainwright
Screenplay: Tom Lazarus, Rick Ramage

Review published March 7, 2000

Some strange occurrences are going on in a church in Brazil, where a Madonna statue is weeping blood, and a Vatican priest (Byrne, Enemy of the State) known for his skepticism is sent in to investigate. One of the priests is now deceased and his rosary beads end up in the hands of a young New York City hair designer (Arquette, Flirting with Disaster). She begins to exhibit "stigmata", whereby she is inflicted with the wounds of Christ for no apparent reason and the Vatican priest is now trying to find out why.

Stigmata is one of those films that has only one thing to say and takes its sweet time before getting to the point. What we get in the meantime is scene after scene of stylish directorial masturbation by Wainwright (The Fog), who tries everything he can to wow us with his technique. It is this very technique that keeps the film looking interesting but making us not care about the characters since everything from the dialogue to the clothes to the sets have no foothold in reality. Ultimately the film becomes nothing more than a two hour techno-horror music video full of unpleasant images and highly-stylized virtuoso editing.

Still, there are some stretches when things seem to work, mostly in scenes involving Byrne as the conflicted priest, but there's just too much padding and not enough sense to make much of it. In the end it tries to deliver a strong message against the Catholic church, but due to going for flash over substance, Stigmata is just a whole lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing". The only religious inspiration will come from viewers who say to themselves, "Thank God it's over".

Qwipster's rating:

2000 Vince Leo