There should be a place in hell for hacks who turn out derivative terror trash and then pretend they’re doing an important investigative piece on Vatican corruption. Perhaps director Rupert Wainwright and screenwriters Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage should be forced to watch Stigmata for all eternity. No, that’s too cruel.
What we have here is a crude copy of The Exorcist. That’s right, the Stigmata team lacks the sixth sense to rip off something more trendy. Patricia Arquette finds herself trapped in the role of Frankie Paige, a Pittsburgh hairdresser and practicing atheist whose interests focus on dancing, drinking, gossiping and getting laid. Then, boom, she starts bleeding from the head, hands and feet like the crucified Christ. What’s up with that? The Vatican, in the person of Cardinal Houseman (Jonathan Pryce), sends in Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) to investigate. Despite all her hemorrhaging, Frankie is quick to note that Father Andrew is a hottie. Or did the devil make her do it?
Arquette throws herself into doing the Linda Blair thing. She pukes, levitates, speaks and writes in Aramaic and curses a blue streak in a voice that sounds dubbed by Tony Soprano. It’s much ado about nothing when you think of The Exorcist in 1973 and Blair telling a priest, “Your mother sucks cocks in hell.” Those were the good old days.
More laughable still is the idea that Stigmata rips the lid off a Vatican cover-up of a gospel in which Christ dispenses with the need for a church (God is in the heart). Says Wainwright, “This movie is going to be to the Vatican what the movie JFK was for the Warren Commission.” Yeah, right. Someone may yet make an honest film about the so-called Jesus scroll, but the cheap-jack Stigmata – with its loving close-ups of hands and feet being hammered to a bloody pulp – isn’t it.