Welcome to today’s installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be talking to creators working in horror and share and recommend various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Sometimes you run across a film so bad that you wonder how in the world the filmmakers could’ve approved of the final product. Unfortunately, Stigmata is one of those films. I’m a big fan of films that have to do with creepy religion related issues such as this and I like Patricia Arquette, so I figured this would be something I’d enjoy. Stigmata could have been an interesting film, it’s a shame that it’s completely killed by lackluster performances, a muddled storyline, uneven pacing, and very awkward music video style editing.
I could tell this film was in very large trouble within the first ten minutes. Right after the first scene, a jarring 90’s music video style sequence commences, which doesn’t set the right kind of mood for this subject matter. It makes the film seem light and whimsical, not serious or creepy. I was so surprised that they thought that was the appropriate editing style and music to go with, and it’s not just the beginning, it’s a theme throughout. That’s not the only reason it’s impossible to take this film seriously. The storyline is extremely muddled and because of that it’s hard to care about what’s going on. Awful, religious centered occurrences keep happening to Frankie Paige and eventually a Catholic priest is sent to investigate. The routine of these predictable stigmatic occurrences becomes old and they aren’t at all convincing.
Everything that happens in this film is done in such a choppy, awkward fashion and it makes the whole thing seem laughable. Nothing is smooth and thoughtful, everything will be completely fine in a scene until BAM! demonic stuff starts going down and none of it comes across as authentic. Also, for a large portion of the film, we don’t really know why any of these awful things are happening to her so we’re just stuck watching this seemingly aimless story. Even when we’re given an explanation, it doesn’t feel impactful because of the way this whole thing is done. I’ve seen plenty of religion based horror films and the great ones are calculating and value substance. I’m not quite sure what Stigmata values. Maybe it values sidelining the Catholic Church? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for that. But at least do it in a high quality manner. The only aspect of this film’s storyline that I like and thought was intelligent was the aspect that dealt with the antagonist and the Catholic Church.
But unfortunately they manage to botch that too. They take the only interesting part of this whole story and save it for a weak ending. It’s dealt with in the final ten minutes and the way in which it’s handled is incredibly shallow.
I like Patricia Arquette and she’s obviously talented but her lead performance here is just weak and doesn’t get the job done. Part of the fault lies with the writing and awkward editing but she isn’t without blame. Her reactions are flimsy and don’t convey the proper feeling/emotion of what’s happening. Her delivery in general comes across as tired and unconvincing. Gabriel Byrne is hit and miss. There are moments when he’s believable and others where he’s far too melodramatic. This is yet another reason this film ends up being an unconvincing joke…. the cast’s performances are subpar and can’t even begin to try to make up for the other shortcomings.
Stigmata is a failure because it doesn’t value what makes this kind of film successful. It doesn’t offer a well written story with developed characters and it ruins the tone/feel of the whole film with choppy music video style editing. There are so many better films of this subgenre, don’t waste your time on Stigmata.