Monday, November 1, 2010

"Stigmata" (1999)

Starring Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne and Jonathan Pryce
Written by Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage
Directed by Rupert Wainright

"Stigmata" is a religious/supernatural horror film from 1999.  Gabriel Byrne stars as Andrew Kiernan, a priest who is also a scientist.  He works for the Vatican, investigating and debunking "miracles," like the appearance of the image of Jesus on a wall, or perhaps a grilled cheese.  On a trip to Brazil, he discovers a statue of Mary that bleeds from the eyes, but is unable to discover how.  It may be a true miracle.  But his supervisor at the Vatican, Cardinal Houseman (Jonathan Pryce) wipes it under the rug and sends Kiernan to the United States to look into reports of a young woman suffering from the Stigmata - wounds resembling those sustained by Christ during the crucifixion.

That woman is Frankie (Patricia Arquette) a young hair stylist who began suffering from visions, fits and strange wounds after receiving a rosary in the mail from her mother, who bought it in Brazil... from the same town where Kiernan discovered the bleeding statue.  At first, Kiernan doesn't believe that Frankie is suffering the Stigmata because, historically, only extremely devout people get them, and Frankie doesn't believe in God.  But he decides to continue his investigation anyway, and eventually comes to believe her, even if he doesn't understand why this is all happening.

As Kiernan gets closer and closer to both Frankie and the truth, Houseman arrives to take control of the situation.  Kiernan suspects that there's a lot more going on than Houseman lets on, and pushes on with his investigation despite his orders.  He discovers evidence of a conspiracy within the Vatican to cover up a 'lost gospel' of Jesus which could have huge ramifications for the church.

"Stigmata" is not a good film.  It's not scary, it's not particularly interesting or even entertaining.  Patricia Arquette is... not a good actress.  In this film, she's surrounded by better actors who seem to neither try nor care.  The dialogue is basic, nothing particularly memorable.  The film doesn't try to bother doing much in the way of exploration of its main themes.  Ideas like faith vs science and the meaning of one's personal relationship with faith and Christ are name-dropped, but never developed.

The whole movie is shot like a bad 90s music video, which does its best to make sure that none of the horrific things that happen to Frankie are ever scary... or even intelligible.  The film's musical score by Billy Corgan is just as bad, lots of atonal noise in the place of any kind of music that might help build a mood that fits the supposed 'story.'

Oh well.  They can't all be horror classics, can they?  "Stigmata" ends up being a silly, unimportant and basic possession story.  Even the ultimate 'twist' regarding the nature of Frankie's possession is uninteresting and doesn't even really make sense.  A waste of a movie.