I guess every horror movie dealing with religious themes born after 1973 must get up in the morning, brush its teeth, look in the mirror and say solemnly to itself, “I’m not THE EXORCIST.” STIGMATA’s morning ritual must be more disheartening than most; “I’m not THE EXORCIST, CHUMBAWUMA plays over my opening credits AND I take place in Pittsburgh.” Keep passing those open windows STIGMATA!
Actually, me thinks this flashy fin de siecle spooker merely masquerades as an EXCORCIST wannabe, what it secretly wants to dress up as is THE THORN BIRDS. Seriously, the “will they or won’t they?” electricity between wacky hairdresser/inflatable chair connoisseur Frankie Paige (PATRICIA ARQUETTE) and pasty and chastey smolder-boulder Father Andrew Kierman (monolith beaked, black Irish centerfold GABRIEL BYRNE) is of such wattage that I couldn’t stop hearing the theme from MOONLIGHTING in my head.
I’d loved to delve into the horrific aspects of STIGMATA, but they are virtually non-existent. My advice is, break out the Häagen-Dazs and sweat pants; this is a sexually repressed girly-girl goth fantasy on par with TWILIGHT. All the supernatural elements on display here seem tailor made to allow Frankie to get all googly eyed and date-rapey over an unavailable man without ever having to worry about loosing face. First her wrists begin to bleed (every cutter knows this is a great way to catch your dreamdate’s eye) then she gets possessed (the perfect excuse to say inappropriate things without ever being accountable) and needless to say, ultimately an outdoor café is involved. Hey, I’m not judging, we are talking about GABBY BYRNE here.
Sadly for horror fans Frankie doesn’t even bother getting possessed by Satan, instead she is forced to be the spokesperson for a dead priest who’s got a super secret message from Jesus that the church would rather you not hear. Yes, the church is EVIL in STIGMATA! Apparently Jesus meant to tell you that you can worship him from home and that you don’t even have to bother going to church. Wha-wha-what? Nice going Jesus, while you’re at it, why not just tell everybody that McDonald’s secret sauce is really just Thousand Island Dressing? Some of us are trying to make a living down here, ya know!
STIGMATA is indisputable trash, hardly horror and very noticeably uninterested in its own subject matter yet it does possess a certain come hither Lifetime movie charm that’s difficult to completely renounce. Director RUPERT WAINRIGHT (who would later take a dump in a handbag and call it a remake of THE FOG) goes completely overboard with the visuals, so much so that much of the movie feels like being trapped in a very leaky URBAN OUTFITTERS, but oh, doesn’t 1999 look sparkly and adorable in its naiveté? Maybe I’m just a Mr. Softy for MTV flavored tales sprinkled with unrequited love, but I’d slap the hand of anyone who tried to turn this shit off. I kinda always knew I had the heart of a teenage girl but STIGMATA proves that I have the heart of a not very bright teenage girl with buck teeth, glasses and a regrettable perm.