Back in the day, I worked with a woman who seemed astonished when I dropped even the most basic Biblical trivia into a conversation about history and/or religion… but, having gone to a churchy school where “religious education” was a compulsory subject, I couldn’t really help retaining that sort of stuff! I guess that’s what prompted her to recommend that I watch a movie called Stigmata (1999), stating that I’d “really enjoy it”? Well, it’s taken me over a decade to follow up on that recommendation, and now I’m not sure whether I should be retroactively offended or not. For those who don’t know, this “supernatural horror” stars Patricia Arquette (of Ed Wood and True Romance fame) as an atheistic hairdresser who is afflicted by bleeding stigmata, after being sent a “cursed” rosary by her globe-trotting mother… who had rather recklessly bought it from a random Brazilian boy in the street, without bothering to ask where he’d found it. In fact, he’d stolen it from the corpse of a ex-pat Italian priest, whose death was followed by an outbreak of miraculous phenomena at the local church. Enter Gabriel Byrne (of Miller’s Crossing fame), playing a Vatican official sent by the Catholic Church to investigate such spooky shenanigans.
One of my issues with The Omen remake was that it was filmed in such a self-consciously abstract and “artsy” style that it never really managed to establish a recognisable, earthy “reality” which could be threatened by otherworldly forces… and the same is true of this movie. I just couldn’t warm to, or sympathise with, any of the “normal” characters, because they were all being kept at a distance by the contrived colour palette and flashy “music video” editing. You have to give Arquette credit for sneaking some brief spots of life and personality on to the screen, like glimmers of sunlight breaking through grey clouds… but more often than not, her natural charisma is suppressed by the idiotic script and “style-for-style’s-sake”. I’m sure this movie would look great projected on to the wall of a goth-y nightclub… but it’s far too cold and flashy to really engage an audience on anything more than the most superficial level. It’s rather dispiriting to listen to the director’s commentary, and learn just how much thought and effort went into achieving the effects that inadvertently undermine whatever humanity the movie might have otherwise had. Sigh.
As I say, I think Arquette gives a much better performance than many other actresses might have managed, under the circumstances. Meanwhile, her decidedly unsupportive friends and co-workers are played by the gorgeous Nia Long (of Fresh Prince and Third Watch fame) and Portia de Rossi (of Ally McBeal fame)… although they don’t really have much to do here, besides exchanging “WTF!?” expressions and gossipy banter… and they’re both edged out of the picture completely once Byrne starts sticking his nose in. What a waste!