When a priest in Brazil dies, a statue in his church starts to bleed. An Atheist young woman in Pittsburgh comes into possession of his rosary, and she also starts bleeding via wounds linked to the stigmata – the wounds of Jesus Christ. Can the scientist / priest sent to investigate by the Vatican save her?
Some bad films are great fun, often causing unintentional laughter usually because of things like budget restraints, dodgy acting or a wonky script. Stigmata is not one of those films. It's just bad. Really bad.
And one of the reasons it's such a bleeding stinker is that it should and could have been a whole lot better, if only anyone had given two hoots about small things like it making any sense. Here's your warning – spoilers from now on.
The plot is hokey. The Catholic Church, desperate to cling on to their power, covers up real miracles and will stop at nothing to hide the results of the seeming possession happening to Patricia Arquette who scrawls passages from a long hidden manuscript thought to be the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel all but destroys the very concept of the Church, something which holy investigator Gabriel Byrne knows nothing about when he's sent to see if the woman bleeding from marks in the wrist and head is faking it or not. She isn't, but it takes an age for them all to realise that, despite her violence, demonic voice and general mayhem causing, she's not actually possessed by a demon but by the old priest himself, using her as a messenger to reveal the location of the hidden gospel. Meanwhile, Catholic big wig Jonathan Pryce, wanting to save the Church, is trying to put a stop to it all.
Jesus Christ! And all the Saints! Did nobody think about any of this before the script went into production? For most of the film we're led to think Arquette is the new Regan MacNeil. She lashes out at Byrne and her friends, destroys her flat, sees visions, (what the actual hell her vision of a woman in the street dropping a baby has to do with ANYTHING is beyond comprehension), but what for? Couldn't the priest possessing her just have sat Gabriel Byrne down and said 'Right mate, there's this hidden gospel which will change the world but I'm dead now so here's where it is. Let's get it all out of the way so I can stop this poor woman from bleeding to death and I'll go into the light, shall I?'
There's just no logic to what we're watching. Arquette's protective best friend simply vanishes as a character half way through, as do the crown of thorns wounds on Arquette's forehead from scene to scene. Arquette's character is an atheist – she smokes, drinks and has sex – but Bryne just can't resist her charms, even on her heaviest days! At one point she drives a knife right through her wrist and out the other side. In the next scene, she's tucked in bed and he's bandaged her up. WTF? It's utter rubbish.
Rupert Wainwright's intrusive direction just adds distraction and it's an absolute horror to see such great actors ploughing through such bloody drivel. Hellish.
STIGMATA / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: RUPERT WAINWRIGHT / SCREENPLAY: TOM LAZARUS / STARRING: PATRICIA ARQUETTE, GABRIEL BYRNE, JONATHAN PRYCE, NIA LONG / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 17TH