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if anything , " stigmata " should be taken as a warning against releasing similarly-themed films relatively close to one another .
of the four supernatural horror flicks released this year , it is clearly the worst .
i suppose i should have seen this coming .
after all , " blair witch " thoroughly creeped me out , " sixth sense " was mildly spooky , and then " stir of echoes " had its moments , but wasn't anything i'd lose sleep over .
clearly , the quality of the horror this summer has slowly been dropping .
is it then any surprise that " stigmata " is the dullest , most horribly executed piece of mtv-influenced tripe i have seen in a long while ?
no , not really .
patricia arquette plays frankie page , a hairdresser from pittsburgh who receives a rosary as a gift from her globe-trotting mother .
as it turns out , the rosary belonged to a recently-deceased brazilian priest .
the priest's church had been under investigation by father andrew kiernan ( gabriel byrne ) because of the mysterious appearance of a bleeding statue .
father kiernan is an investigator who has made a career out of disproving supposed religious signs , but this time he believes there is something to the bleeding statue .
his investigation is soon called off , however , when the frankie starts exhibiting signs of the stigmata , in which a person is inflicted with wounds like that of jesus christ .
father kiernan is initially skeptical of frankie' s story , considering she's an atheist , but once he witnesses the stigmata attacks himself , he dedicates himself to finding out what is going on .
he eventually begins to suspect that his boss , cardinal houseman ( jonathan pryce ) , is concealing something that could bring down the catholic church .
as it turns out , the dead priest had been working on the translation of a " fifth gospel " before they were excommunicated .
the new rupert wainwright music video .
i mean film " stigmata " is the sort of film that starts off ok and only gets worse .
indeed , it would have been good if it were a music video , because it's only interesting for about five minutes .
i'm not sure what wainwright is trying to prove with his endless parade of slow-motion , double-exposure , and extreme close-ups ( whoaaaaaa ! ! ! ! ) , other than the fact that he has the most swelled head of any director in hollywood and , yes , he has been to film school .
his camera trickery is interesting for a little while , but eventually , it becomes headache-inducing .
what this film needed is a second audio track to be played over the dialogue ( such as it is ) , with wainwright screaming at the audience , " see ?
look at what i can do !
i'm an ex-cellent dir-ect-or . "
maybe then he'd explain why he decided to start half of his scenes with slow-motion shots of water dripping in reverse , or why he included random superfluous shots as that of an egg frying ( ooh , scary ! ) .
if there was some underlying meaning behind all this camera trickery , i didn't see it .
just when you thought it was safe to get involved in the story , here comes a double-exposure shot of two patricia arquettes collapsing into bed for no reason whatsoever .
arrrrrrrghhhh .
then again , the superfluous camera trickery wouldn't bother me if " stigmata " had a story or characters that were remotely engaging .
though wainwright's vanity certainly doesn't help , he does seem to have been given a nearly unworkable script .
where are plot continuity and character development when you need them ?
case in point : frankie page is the character that ( i assume ) we are supposed to identify and sympathize with , but we aren't given any back story on her character , or any reason to like her .
the extent of her character development seems to be that she is a hard-working hairdresser ( who can somehow afford a cavernous apartment on the top floor of her building ) and she's kind of cute , so let's start the bleeding !
the fact that she's clearly not the brightest bulb in the drawer doesn't help , either .
according to frankie page , what is the first thing to do after receiving mysterious wounds on your wrists and back ?
go clubbing !
sure , that makes sense .
arquette , byrne , and pryce give it the old college try , but their characters are so one-dimensional that they just appear to be sleepwalking .
scenes between arquette and byrne that were probably supposed to be sexually charged fall almost embarrassingly flat , because the setup of the romantic subplot is so clumsily handled that it almost reaches the point of becoming laughable .
even though frankie page's life is falling apart before her very eyes , she still finds the time to hit on a priest who wanders in to her hair salon .
even more curiously , he seems to be interested in her advances .
father andrew's religious doubt pops up so suddenly that it seems more silly than dramatic .
as for pryce , he may as well wear a curled mustache and cackle , " i'll get you , my pretty , " for all the depth his cardinal houseman is afforded .
trust me , i'm not revealing anything by telling you pryce turns out to be a villain .
what's worse , after being faced with dull characters and the prospect of having annoying camera tricks and loud music jammed down our throats , we now have to contend with a story that starts off in one direction , veers off in another , then another , and ends up being totally incomprehensible .
first of all , the film doesn't even bother to explain what should be very simple plot details . how does frankie get the stigmata merely by touching a rosary ?
how come an atheist like her was chosen , since father andrew mentions that only very devout believers have ever received stigmata ?
actually , i'm not sure what frankie was posessed by .
supposedly , stigmata occurs when one is posessed by the holy spirit , but the film later has her being posessed by the dead priest , and later by some evil spirit ( i think ) .
which one is it ?
the answer to this question , of course , is very simple : the possessing entity in each scene is determined by whichever effects and flashy camera work mr . wainwright wants to use this time .
furthermore , the ending is a ridiculously neat little wrap-up , and the filmmakers compound this problem by ultimately turning the film into a diatribe against the catholic church .
if you do any research at all about the gospel of st . thomas , you'll find that it is not being suppressed by the church ( as the film seems to claim ) , but that it is readily available at your local library .
there's nothing the catholics need to worry about , though .
" stigmata's " religion is so off-base that it can't be confused for anything remotely resembling the real catholic church .
if they wanted to portray catholic priests as mobsters , they should have gone all-out and equipped them with sharkskin suits and tommy guns , which would have been far more interesting .
i'm not catholic ; in fact , i don 't care much for the catholic church , but its cartoonish misrepresentation in this film should not be considered realistic by any means .
it's rare to see a film that fails on as many levels as " stigmata " does .
it' s not thought-provoking , though it would like to be , and it is definitely not scary , though it pretends to be .
i'm not sure why they tried to pass this off as a horror film , because there is absolutely nothing scary about the story .
maybe it's an attempt to cover up the fact that none of the scenes have any dramatic weight whatsoever .
the initial shock of seeing arquette covered with blood is dulled by the fact that it happens over , and over , and over .
like so many films of the mtv generation , this one suffers from overkill .
so much is overdone in " stigmata , " that it eventually has no effect on the audience , leaving us to pick out the film's ( many ) flaws .
i'm also still trying to figure out why the quotation they take from the gospel of st . thomas is so earth-shattering .
when we finally hear it , the saying sounds like something every five-year-old learns on their first day of sunday school , which means that for all its flash , the whole film is really much ado about nothing .
the dog days of summer usually produce one monstrous dog , and " stigmata " is it .